Ashutosh Gowariker started writing Swades at the same time as Lagaan. One of the most defining films of our times, Lagaan had altered the course of modern Indian cinema. The latter released first and obviously left the critics and audiences wondering ‘What after Lagaan?’ Gowariker’s answer was down pat. Nothing better could have followed.
A powerful commentary on several socio-political issues from poverty to unemployment, Swades paints a realistic portrait of a country plagued and constrained by its regressive traditions and ideologies.
Shahrukh Khan as Mohan Bharghava shone in one of the career’s best performances, brilliantly bringing out the character’s internal conflicts. His held-back, understated style was a pleasant break from his larger-than-life onscreen persona. A cult classic, Swades is treasured not just for its impeccable performances but its subject that struck a chord, it’s old-world charm, a simple narrative that held us right through the end (despite the three and a half hour runtime) and masterly direction.
Surprisingly, the film was a commercial failure at the time of its release. It may have taken long enough for the audience to warm up to and embrace this little gem, but Swades is inarguably, one of the finest films in recent times and among the best Hindi films ever made.