I watched ‘Forrest Gump’ (1994) probably about twenty years ago. It was one of the films that were part of my initiation into Hollywood movies. I was deeply impressed with the concept of a man’s journey in life, through the changing scenes of American history. Many years later, Karan Johar made a film called ‘My Name Is Khan’ (2010). That was the closest Hindi films had come to chronicling historical events around a man’s journey. In the film, a Muslim man hikes around North America, to meet the President and to explain that not every Muslim is a terrorist. It was a fine, though deeply misunderstood, film. So when Aamir Khan announced the official remake of ‘Forrest Gump’, I was sceptical for two reasons – One, I found it unnecessary and two, it was sacrilegious to tamper with the original classic. Today when I walked out of the theatre doors, after watching the film, I was elated to find myself wrong on both occasions. Director Advait Chandan’s ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ is a true and worthy remake of ‘Forrest Gump’.
‘Lal Singh Chaddha’ is the story of an autistic Sikh man, who recounts his journey of life, to people unknown to him, while he travels on a train. His life, intertwined with various incidents from the post-Emergency era of India till today, gives the audience a deep insight into the ever-changing world around this man, who has lived a life full of surprises, sprinkled with an equal amount of joy and sadness. He lays out his whole life in front of strangers, as he engages them in tales about himself, his mother, the girl he fell in love with and many men and women, who were instrumental in shaping his life. If anything, it’s the triumph of storytelling that allows the Indianization of ‘Forrest Gump’ into a wonderful tale that rather surreptitiously nudges into your memories, with the historical events that keep unfurling on screen.
As it’s an official remake, the Indian adaptation by Atul Kulkarni remains mostly true to the original. Barring a few adjustments, keeping in mind the sensibilities of the Desi audience and skirting itself away from controversies, which unfortunately itself had got embroiled into, the film looks at historical events from the eyes of Laal. The Vietnam war becomes the Kargil war here. Lieutenant Dan becomes a Pakistani infiltrator saved during the war. And Bubba Gump shrimp company turns into… well see the movie to know what it becomes! There is no ping pong diplomacies and of course no barring of the bottom to show the gunshot wound! But that doesn’t deter the storyline. Laal’s story witnesses riots, political turmoils, blasts, terrorism, assassinations, and war that had changed the country and its people. But Laal remains the same, oblivious to the world and in love with Rupa, his childhood sweetheart.
Aamir Khan pours his life into the characterization of Laal Singh Chaddha. With due respect to Tom Hanks, Aamir manages to carve his niche into the iconic role. It’s interesting to see him enact a persona that often delves dangerously into the territories of a ‘PK’ resemblance. Yet, when it’s needed, Aamir flexes his acting chops and makes the audience believe in this fictional man. Kareena Kapoor Khan is au naturel when it comes to portraying Rupa. She amazingly fits into the role of this woman who has her share of poignant tales, that runs parallel with Laal’s. Mona Singh as Laal’s mother, Manav Vij as the Pakistani infiltrator, and Naga Chaitanya as fellow soldier Bala leave their indelible mark in their respective roles. The emotional appeal of the film gets enriched by the music by Pritam, with the pick of the songs being ‘Kahani’ and ‘Phir Na Aisi Raat Ayegi’.
‘Forrest Gump’ was made in the year 1994 and essentially was about 20th century America. In three decades, the world has completely changed. Perhaps the saccharine sweet story of ‘Forrest Gump’ or for that matter that of ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ may not appeal to the contemporary sensibilities of the modern filmgoer. Some may also wonder at the futility of remaking a cult film, rather than watching its subtitled version. Whatever it may be, ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ is an important film to watch out for, in today’s time with its epic tale about humanity and its message – Life, be it a box of chocolates or a box of golgappas, it still surprises you its unique flavours.
P.S – Watch out for the man who got inspired by Laal Singh Chaddha to stretch his arms out and entice a whole generation of fans!
The Cinemawala Rating: 3/5