Navigation | Swades Final Film- Lilian Medford

Swades Final Film- Lilian Medford



Swades, or “Homeland” is a Sharukh Khan film from 2004. This film brought together so many Bollywood elements that we’ve discussed this semester that it’s hard to pick what to talk about here, but I think I’ll mainly talk about what the title makes it sound like, a movie about the homeland.

This film is really a love letter to India! It made me fall in love with India more than any other film we’ve watched this semester. I’ve never been to India, but I definitely know now that at some point I’m going to go to this stunningly beautiful country and see it all for myself. Much of the cinematographic attention is given to the landscapes of India, and also stunning portraiture of the Indian peoples, both of which I really appreciated.

Mohan (played by SRK) is an NRI living in the U.S. and working for NASA on a global precipitation monitoring project. He has been in the US for 12 years when he decides to return to India for a brief vacation to reunite with his old nanny, a woman named Kaveriamma.


Kaveriamma is most definitely the “Mother India” of this film. Mohan has no family of his own, having lost his parents in an accident while he was in college at UPenn. It is also made clear that his parents did not take nearly as big a part in physically raising and emotionally nurturing him as did Kaveriamma when Mohan was growing up. Taken as a symbol for India, Mohan was raised by Mother India… his upbringing (Kaveriamma’s nurturing guidance) in the homeland clearly made him the person he became. Yet, he somehow lost sight of his inherent Indianness after so long in the states, made clear symbolically by his losing touch with Kaveriamma at the end of college.

Mohan wants to do good for the world, wants to create technological progress and help impede global warming through his work with NASA. But the movie makes it clear through many dialogues that to help the world, Mohan must first help India. Though he dons the name Non-Resident Indian, Mohan’s love interest in the story calls him “NRI: Non-Returning Indian,” criticizing Mohan’s innate lack of contribution to the betterment of Indian society.


This love interest comes in the form of the perfect Indian woman, named Gita. Gita was Mohan’s childhood friend, and became the caretaker for Kaveriamma (taking her out of a nursing home where Mohan had left her) when Mohan lost contact, returning Kaveriamma to her roots in a small village. She is a teacher whose passion lies in educating the next generation and fostering their growth not to follow their dreams like Mohan and leave India, but to stay and work for the betterment of their society. I think it’s no coincidence that Gita is played by Gayatri Joshi. Like many other Bollywood actresses in recent years, she was first a supermodel. But unlike many others, she was a runner-up in the Miss India pageant, and as such, was chosen to represent India in the Miss Universe pageant the following year, about 4 years before the release of this film. I take this to mean that she has been chosen before to represent all that is good about India, and her character, along with the fact that she is not at all a big name in Bollywood cinema, reflects that.

When doing research on the film, I also came across an interpretation of the film’s Ghandism. It’s therefore no coincidence that the protagonist’s name is Mohan, the birth name of Ghandi. The film opens with a Ghandi quote: “Hesitating to act because the whole vision might not be achieved, or because others do not yet share it, is an attitude that only hinders progress.” This quotation really sums up Mohan’s self-conflict in the film. He is hesitant to contribute to Indian society because he feels that so much of India is simply lost, never to be found again. His dreams for world progress and advancement, he feels, are of greater purpose than helping his homeland, but he eventually comes to see that this ‘attitude’ only ‘hinders progress’ in the long run.


Mohan, inspired by Gita’s persistence, decides to use his time in India to do good for society. First, on Gita’s behalf, he recruits many new students to Gita’s school by persuading their parents that education and literacy are worthwhile contributions to the village families even more so than any financial contribution the children could be making to their families with their child labor. He then uses his engineering knowledge to help the village construct their own hydro-electric reservoir system that can give power to the village (which has trouble with frequent power outages). He finds these projects to be extremely rewarding, but after many weeks, he must return to his obligations at NASA.


(For this photo, I tried to get the shot visible at 2:57 in the video link below where it sharply contrasts the Americas on the globe with a quick cut for the rotation focus on India)

Nevertheless, as with any good NRI we’ve seen this semester, eventually Mohan’s visceral love for India wins over his heart and he decides to return to India for good. This decision comes in the form of a song sequence that I think blends together all that’s good in Ghar Aaja Pardesi (DDLJ) and Tanhayee (Dil Chahta Hai) into one AMAZING diasporic song sequence that calls the audience back to the homeland. This song sequence makes ME feel like I need to go BACK to India, and not only have I never been, but I’m an American, and this song sequence also has many shots of the beauty of America, too!

Watch it! It’s seriously good: Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera

Overall, I really appreciated this film. I think it was a CLASSIC in terms of encompassing most of the themes we’ve discussed this semester. The film wasn’t, however, well-received in India. Wikipedia speculates that this may have been simply due to the release date (3 weeks after Veer Zaara, another SRK film, but with Preity Zinta, so who wouldn’t want to go see THAT in theaters??). But it may have been my favorite Bollywood movie I’ve seen so far, and in terms of the discussion of the future of Bollywood, I really hope that THIS is the futuristic direction Bollywood chooses to go.

Filed by lime at May 15th, 2013 under Uncategorized

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