Blog Past: On Watching Swades

One movie that is worth watching many times over is Swades.  This is what I wrote after seeing the movie first in early 2005:

Swades is about an India most of us don’t know – and probably don’t want to know. It is an India around us that is very different from us. We cannot get away from it. It stares at us in the form of children begging outside our car’s closed window and us wishing that they’d just go away. It is an India that sits in between all those fancy high-rises and malls that are coming up – we wonder if these eyesores could be erased. It is an India that we encounter occasionally as we take trips to ancestral hometowns – and leave thinking how time has, for the most part, stood still. Even as Swades is about rural India, we cannot escape the symptoms in the slums of urban India. It is as much about the India we did not build after Independence – poverty, overpopulation, illiteracy, malnutrition, darkness still reign across parts of India.

Swades is also a film about hope. It is about the difference that each of us can make in this other India. What this India lacks is vision, will and co-ordination. People there have for the most part accepted that things will be the way they are. The British may have left more than half a century ago, but large parts of India are still in a subjugation mindset – some of it forced by circumstances, some of it accepted due to ignorance. One of us can transform the lives of a thousand. If Lagaan was about how a Bhuvan can bring about change from within, Swades is about how a Mohan Bhargava can bring about change from the outside – freed from the shackles of the past of tradition and culture.

Each of us has to do what we are best at and at the time of our chosing. This change in us has to come from within. Some of us may accomplish this by being entrepreneurs, some by being engineers or doctors to bring about innovations that can make a difference, some by adopting schools or orphanages in this other India, and some by contributing financially. Swades is not about dramatic top-down change, it is about slow bottom-up transformation. It is about many micro-revolutions which need to take place all around.

Swades reminds us that even as one India grows, there is another India that’s still far behind. And whether we like it or not, the land that both occupy is the same. One India cannot go too far leaving the other behind. We are one nation of a billion people. We are all part of one India. What the more fortunate among us have to do is to provide the leadership that can help bring about change in the other India. As we think about the problems of the other India, there are solutions that exist. But for making these real, we will have to leave aside some of our old mindsets.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.