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LAAL SINGH CHADDHA - A cautiously made adaptation that falls short of expectations, spreading the message of love. (Review By Bobby Sing)

12 Aug, 2022 | Movie Reviews / 2022 Releases / ALL ABOUT INSPIRED MOVIES / Inspired Movies (Alphabetical) / Just In / L

Forrest Gump (1994) is one of those films that might appear to be dated and a bit unconvincing to many in the present age, as numerous films focusing on such dimwit characters have been released in the last three decades. However, for a larger section of cinema lovers (who saw it in the late 90s), it remains a cult all-time favourite, for two specific features, apart from the adorable, flawless act of the magician Tom Hanks
 
First, the film gets widely quoted in life-teaching articles, books, and visual presentations all over the world (post the mid-90s) because of its key dialogue “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” The two-line dialogue can easily be included among the most famous enlightening, iconic quotes about life written in the world of cinema to date. 
 
Second, Forrest Gump was also one of those first films (perhaps the first) to incorporate VFX-generated sequences, inserting the protagonist in the archival footage of earlier decades, standing along with many icons on the historic events. Indian Cinema got to see a similar sequence a couple of years later in Kamal Hassan and Shankar’s Indian/Hindustani (1996). 
 
Beautifully conceived by the director Robert Zemeckis, the film was based on the novel by Winston Groom with the same title, published in 1986. And it won several awards, along with six major OSCARS including the Best Film and the Best Actor award for Tom Hanks.
 
The breaking news of its Hindi remake being made by Aamir Khan was not any great news for me when I heard it a few years back. It got me confused, as Forrest Gump wasn’t any film asking for a remake in Hindi. It was quite an uninteresting subject, keeping in mind the Hindi cinema audience in particular. The Hindi film industry has rarely seen a thoughtful, life-teaching film as a box office success in the last two decades post the 90s. The meaning of entertaining cinema has become quite limited here, in reality, remaining confined to just a few genres.
 
Plus, I was concerned about why Aamir Khan had chosen a Sikh character to play Gump. Just because he had a low-IQ kind of persona? On the same note, it was also concerning why Aamir and his writers named the character Laal Singh Chaddha and not Laal Singh Sandhu or Gill. For friends not aware of the discrimination between these specific castes or gotr in the Sikh community, this has a history behind it. If studied in detail, then this might open an entirely fresh, enlightening chapter about Sikhs - largely known to be people following the most recent or modern sect, not believing in any kind of caste or gotr discrimination. The study will be like opening a shocking Pandora’s Box without any doubt.
 
Thankfully, in Laal Singh Chaddha, the makers neither emphasise much upon the low IQ characteristic of the protagonist nor present it in any derogatory manner. Adding to the positive, they also don’t have any deliberate focus on the religion of their key character (Sikhism). The sequences related to the religious element have all been written and directed responsibly without making any kind of comment, playing it safe.
 
However, this very positive also becomes annoying and pointless when the story progression showcases all the major events of Indian history post the emergency without any kind of opinion expressed by the protagonist Laal Singh Chaddha. So, Chaddha goes on narrating his story to the co-passengers on the train remembering the emergency, the attack on Golden Temple Amritsar, the murder of Indira Gandhi, Sikhs genocide in Delhi, Mandal Commission, L.K. Advani’s Rath yatra, Babri Masjid, Mumbai bomb blasts, underworld’s involvement in Mumbai film industry, Kargil war, attack in Mumbai on 26/11 and then the Anna Hazare Movement, with no personal comment on any event, whatsoever. 
 
The uninteresting narrative further falls flat, losing any kind of meaning when the makers very conveniently skip the tragic Gujarat riots of 2002 from their list of significant events in recent Indian history. Whether the mention of the Gujarat riots got edited out during the last-minute changes or was never shot in the first place, cannot be said. But it was quite surprising questioning the very purpose of all such mentions in the script.
 
In the original film, the same was presented in a much bold manner, keeping the humour quotient intact, giving all the historical sequences (of America) an intentional twist. Besides the quote, "Life is a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get” gets a new meaning every time Gump goes through a fresh unexpected event in his happening life.
 
Strangely, in the Hindi adaptation, the hugely famous dialogue gets interpreted as “Life is similar to Gol-gappas. One’s stomach might get full but the heart keeps wishing to have more”
 
Now the real meaning of the English phrase gets completely lost in the Hindi translation, expressing an entirely different thought. The Golgappa quote is not even related to the original dialogue and that remains the basic reason why the story of Laal Singh Chaddha seems to have no purpose at all, simply passing through each event in his life as an unaware, unconcerned person.
 
The writing also remains shaky right from the start with glaring loopholes in the timeline of events and their on-screen depiction. For instance, the Emergency ended in 1977, the World Cup win was in 1983, the attack on Golden Temple Amritsar and the Sikhs Genocide in Delhi was 1984 and Shahrukh Khan’s debut in TV serials was around 1988-89. But during this period of 7-10 years, the age and appearance of the kid playing Laal remain the same and he doesn’t grow at all. Strangely the kid also meets the young Shah Rukh even before the Sikh Genocide of 1984.
 
Besides, though it finds a reasonable ground in the second half, the repeated mention of Chaddi-Banyan by a soldier during his training days sounds odd. In the later part of the film, it even gets absurd when it comes to the treatment given to a captured Pakistani terrorist and the female associate of an underworld don. The way the terrorist attacking at Kargil from the other side of the border becomes a major part of the script, freely living in India, and also becoming Laal’s business partner facing no legal complexities of any sort, is unbelievably strange or rather foolish.  
 
To be fair, Laal Singh Chaddha successfully drags you in during its initial 30 minutes, when all the historical references are being made depicting his childhood days. But it soon begins to lose any meaning once Laal grows up into a young Aamir Khan, simply looking like a PK 2.0. From here onwards, you go on watching it because of its fresh approach towards things and strong technical finesse. But the film keeps struggling to get you emotionally involved in its content. As a result, the second half gets weaker, ending on an unsatisfying note. For me the most interesting insertion in the film was of Kareena Kapoor, projecting the life of a gorgeous aspiring actress, caught in the web of underworld dons, strongly reminding you of the case of Monica Bedi.
 
Chaddha goes on talking about his life as a middle-aged Sikh travelling on the train alone. And these train sequences are a relief to watch mainly because of his authentic get-up of a turbaned Sikh and the supporting actors, including the star of the past, Kamini Kaushal. She simply wins your heart with just a couple of lines. Aamir has two kinds of performances in the film. He looks great and impresses as a turbaned Sikh, but the Punjabi accent remains flawed (as a typical irritating feature of Hindi films). However, the moment he goes back to his routine looks of a young boy, the character of PK takes over and the act keeps oscillating between good, average and a hamming one. Hence, this arguably cannot be included in the list of his outstanding performances at all by any standards. As an actor, it seems PK never left Aamir, post-Hirani’s movie.
 
On the other end, the supporting cast truly lifts the film led by Kareena coming up with an appreciable act playing an ambitious model-actress. She excels herself in the final moments of the film minus the glam look. Mona Chadha does complete justice to her character and so does the kid, playing the young Laal. Answering the questions raised upon her casting, the age of an actor, in reality, has nothing to do with the characters he or she plays on the screen, and names like Sanjeev Kumar and Anupam Kher had proved it long back. Both Naga Chaitanya as Bala and Manav Vij as the captured Pakistani terrorist shine brightly, even though the writing lets them down. However, Shah Rukh Khan’s likable cameo remains forced. 
 
Skilfully shot in locations all over the country, the film directed by Advait Chandan, and written/adapted by Atul Kulkarni, is pleasing in its presentation but has been made with a visible caution, which largely affects its overall impact. It also has probably the longest Disclaimer read in the beginning for the obvious reasons. 
 
Covering more than three decades, Laal Singh Chaddha demanded a powerful theme song as I strongly felt. But the soundtrack composed by Pritam is plain average just like the film. The opening song Kahaani sung by Mohan Kannan and penned by Amitabh Bhattacharya grabs your attention with its melody and remains the best followed by Main Ki Karan sung by Sonu Nigam and Romy. But then neither the film uses any of these songs effectively nor you come out singing any while moving out of the theatre. And this is one department, Hindi cinema is overlooking since long.
 
In all, Laal Singh Chaddha not only falls short of expectations, but it also raises the question that what did Aamir Khan found great in this unengaging adaptation while reading it on paper. Interestingly Salman Khan’s Bharat (2019) also followed a similar format, which was an official remake of a Korean film, Ode To My Father, and even Mausam (2011) written and directed by Pankaj Kapur, had a storyline moving through many major events of a decade. 
 
Despite these shortcomings, one big positive of the film is its message of love, staying far away from any hatred and evil. And in the present scenario, that is the most essential message to be spread through any medium of expression on any platform. 
 
Going back to the iconic quote of Forrest Gump. I still cannot figure out how the team led by the perfectionist Aamir Khan completely missed out the message of the original lines in their Hindi adaptation. It could have been easily be done keeping the gol-gappas intact.
 
Giving it a shot, instead of the lousy one in the film, the interpretation could simply be,
 
 “Meri Mummy kehti thi. Zindagi gol-gappe jaisi hundi hai. Kadey khatta zyada ho jaanda te kadey mitha”
 
 “My mother said, life is like a gol-gappa. It sometimes becomes more sour and sometimes sweeter”.
 
That honest interpretation would have represented the life of LAAL SINGH CHADDHA in a much better manner. 
 
Rating : 2.5 + 0.5 / 5 (with the additional 0.5 for spreading the message of love and warmth among the fellow travellers of life) 

Tags : Laal Singh Chaddha Review by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, New Hindi films Reviews By Bobby Sing, New Bollywood Movies Reviews by Bobby Sing, Latest Aamir Khan movie, Official Hindi remake of Forrest Gump (1994)
12 Aug 2022 / Comments ( 4 )
Purnima

Excellent  review. I was inclined to watch the movie just to spite the boycott,  provided good reviews but reviews r coming bad. Thank you.
Also what u pointed abt period/decades drama like bharat n mausam, they too were flat for me. Not able to keep interest.

Thank you for the review

Camaal

Usually I read reviews on your site after watching the film. First time reading before. Will read once again after watching the movie. 

Rinku Verma

Why no one comparing the movie with salman's Bharat. I know both are remake of different movies but theme of both the movies kind of same.

Bobby Sing

BHARAT is clearly mentioned in the review along with another Hindi film on a similar theme. I think you missed out that part of the write-up.
Keep Visiting and Writing In,
Cheers!

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