Swades is and will remain one of the most finest patriotic movies I have ever seen. A few years ago, I wrote about this children’s book (This India, Sheila Dhar) that I managed to get my hands on eventually. It changed my perception of being Indian, just like this movie did.
This movie has no fights, no war victories, no reminders of the great country that we are. It doesn’t pull the nation down either. It tells us, we are not perfect, and we have a long way to go. But to create any revolution, we need to first come out of denials. ‘Nothing will change, our policies are regressive, our politics is taking the country to the dogs’ are all ways of showing the denial we live in. While many believe its about one man’s mission to bring in constructive, grass-root level change after seeing poverty; there is so much more to the movie than just poor, hungry people.
The movie is not just about making a change. It is about knowing how much can change, and how to initiate change subtly. From a scene on child marriage to an honest depiction of arranged marriages, it handles the nuances of being an Indian so delicately without being preachy. It even has a silent lover, who lets a lady fight her own battle of principles than come to her rescue. But he’s far from the evil Prince Charming, he’s charming because he’s real. He’s knows where she needs help (there too conditions apply, nothing is unconditional–neither love, nor truce). There is so much happening in the movie–it’s beauty is in the details.
Let me end this blog with this beautiful scene from the movie. Mohan (the protagonist) comes down to India to take his only surviving relative (who isn’t related to him by blood, she was his nanny) back with him to the US. While Geeta, whom also she tended to as a child, wants to take care of her in her old age. Kaveri amma, the nanny, is torn between the two. While skeptics fear she will be reduced to a mere house help, Kaveri amma knows he loves and respects her. The panchayat in the village has one old Muslim lady (the irony of it all) who is close to the nanny. As Kaveri amma explains her dilemma to Fatima Bi, the wise old panch tells her to ask Mohan to stay back instead. Kaveri argues that he will not agree to which Fatima Bi retorts, “Aapne hi paani mein pighaljana barf ka muquaddar hota hai. (Ice is fated to melt into the water that formed it).”
We alone decide our own fate, so time take charge of our actions!