Film: Laal Singh Chaddha
Director: Advait Chandan
Cast: Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Naga Chaitanya, Manav Vij and Mona Singh
Kya Pata Hum Mein Hai Kahani
Ya Hai Kahani Mein Hum?
The very first song Kahani, with wondrous lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya and music by Pritam, establishes the light-hearted feel-good tenor of the film. And from the very first scene, Aamir Khan holds us captive as he goes on to narrate his own story, urf that of Laal Singh Chaddha, a simpleton with a heart of gold.
In a way, he is both the first and third person. As a narrative device, a man recounting his own story to a bunch of strangers may seem rather perplexing. But Laal Singh Chaddha is not an average being; he is a special person, a pure soul, not as smart as you and me, but blessed with extraordinary abilities.
Indeed, Laal Singh Chaddha an adaptation of Tom Hanks- starrer Forrest Gump may not get full marks on creative ideation for it sure is a borrowed concept. But as it transposes the story of the Vietnam solider on to Indian soil with astuteness, it gets more than passing marks. Thanks to deft writing by Atul Kulkarni, it does come out as a very Indian story with lots of Indian political markers. The years in which the film is set unfurl through snapshots of political events. With a rather long disclaimer, you don’t expect the film that uses digitised real mileage to wade in choppy waters.
Despite pointing out many tumultuous events in the recent history of India, it offers no political commentary. Nevertheless, it manages to bring out the horror of anti-Sikh riots. The scene where Laal’s mother (Mona Singh) cuts off her young son’s (a beautiful Ahmad Ibn Umar) hair to save him from rioters is hair-raising and brings tears to your eyes. In fact, in more than one scene you have a lump in your throat. And that is one of the biggest triumphs of the narrative, which is quintessentially a very personal journey of a man interspersed with India’s recent socio-political history.
And the counterpart to the Vietnam War of the Forrest Gump here is, well, Kargil War where South-Indian star Naga Chaitanya is introduced to us in a part, which may be not as delightful as it was intended to be. Chaitnaya, however, does make an impact even though the prime focus of his friendship with Laal is once again meant to bring out the innate character of Laal. Manav Vij’s character as a terrorist-infiltrator from Pakistan once again reaffirms Laal’s attributes of guilelessness and power of goodness in thought and deed to counter the virus of communalism and religious bigotry.
At one level, the film is a love story, with Kareena Kapoor Khan as Rupa playing Laal’s romantic interest and his childhood friend. Her arc, rather well-fleshed out, takes us into another journey, the underbelly of glamour world and an effective Kareena adds to emotional heft. Of course, Laal Singh Chaddha, which took too long to make and finally release, does seem too long at points.
The final turn his love story with Kareena takes is a bit clichéd. But the ultimate message of human goodness that the film cares to drive home reaches out and envelopes you in a bear hug. If the wide-eyed innocence and perpetual sense of wonder writ on Aamir’s mobile face says it all, so do the lines unhon nu mere ch ek umeed nazar aaundi si... Undeniably, Laal Singh Chaddha represents the humanity we all are fast losing. As Indian cinema is busy celebrating many shades of gray here is to purity of thought and simplicity.
Sab changa hai... And now a word on Punjabi diction since the titular character is a Sikh from Punjab. Despite the film boasting of a dialect coach, the Punjabi here is more Indianised than authentic. But the spirit of Punjabiyat does come out flying, and a whole lot of credit also goes to Mona Singh’s stellar portrayal as indomitable sardarni .