Starring: Manoj Bajpai, Juhi Chawla, Maninder, Siddharth Gupta (child artist) and Neha Pendse
Director: Ganesh Acharya
Now Swami is a movie you don’t see everyday in Bollywood. It captures the essence of an average person’s everyday life, in a let’s say very, sugarcoated fashion. Ganesh Acharya, being a choreographer, you’d expect his debut film to be full of dance and modernized music along with your typical masala story. Nevertheless, Swami was an honest attempt at simple cinema, something us viewers neglect quite often.
Swami is the story of your average middle-class family. Swami (Manoj Bajpai) is the husband and leader of the family. He works as an accountant in a small jewelery store, close to his home. His wife Radha (Juhi Chawla) is a stay-at-home mother who has big dreams. Radha suggests that they move to Mumbai, in search for better education for their son (Anand). So, they pack their bags, and decide to move to the city of dreams–Mumbai.
Now, if this movie landed in the hands of another director, you would probably see more drama happen in Mumbai. But, no. Halfway into the movie we still haven’t seen some of the usual problems a middle-class family would encounter in Mumbai. I’m sorry but, nobody has been robbed, nobody has lost their job, nobody has fallen ill, and nobody has had a shortage of money yet. Aren’t these the typical problems you’d encounter after moving from a small village in Maharashtra to a big metropolitan city? So far, Swami’s successful in his job, Anand’s been admitted into an english-medium school, and Radha’s as happy as ever. What could go wrong?
Soon, Radha falls ill and must undergo surgery as soon as possible. Swami begins to work overtime so that he can make enough money for her surgery. After days of hard work, Swami has finally gathered enough money for Radha’s surgery. But that day, he returns to find that all the money has disappeared. Radha has spent it all on a simple rocking chair, something Swami has wanted since he was a child. Swami is so delighted with receiving the chair, that soon both forget about Radha’s illness. This leaves any normal viewer shocked, at the sheer stupidity of both of them neglecting Radha’s need for surgery. We’re talking about your wife’s well being over a mere chair.
Still, everything’s back to normal until one day Swami returns home. He finds Radha on the bed, and she constantly questions him, “Will our son one day go to America?” When Swami answers yes, they stare at each other for a century and then Swami realizes that she has left him. The rest of the movie narrates how Swami fulfills Radha’s last wish, sending Anand to America.
Manoj Bajpai grows stronger and stronger with each performance. He gets into the skin of the character, and makes the viewer shed a tear or two. Any other actor in his position couldn’t have delivered such a wonderful performance. And for that, he deserves to be one of the A-list actors. I’ve always believed that Manoj Bajpai is a very underrated actor along with the likes of Irrfan Khan and Kay Kay Menon. Hopefully, Swami will prove to everyone that Manoj deserves to be at the top.
Juhi Chawla, enacts the role of a loving mother and supportive wife with ease. One wonders why she isn’t taking up more movie offers with the type of performances she delivers each time. Juhi Chawla, as everyone says, is a legend and she won’t be forgotten very easily. The child artist playing Anand is very cute and a bundle of talent at the same time. The older Anand played by debut actor Maninder is excellent. His wife Pooja, enacted by Neha Pendse, does her best in a role that doesn’t require much talent. Swami’s friends are very unnecessary in the film and tend to get annoying at times.
The music is a total let down. The first half of the movie is very slow and sugarcoated. The second half begins to get interesting after Radha’s death. But it slows down as the director introduces the new characters (Swami’s friends). The ending scenes are handled very well, especially the scene were Swami rediscovers his chair in the room. Once again, a brilliant performance by Manoj, in that particular scene. Props to the director for creating such a fine scene. Others that touched your heart were the scenes were Pooja discarded the chair, the birth of Swami’s grandchild, and the scenes between Maninder and Manoj Bajpai. Maninder and Manoj really do compliment each other as a father-son duo.
Swami is a film that will appeal to a small section of viewers. It may stand on its own at the box-office for a few weeks, but the film is likely to fall flat on its face as movies such as Awarapan, Apne, and Aap Ka Surroor begin to hit the screens. One wishes the scenes with Swami and his friends were simply not in the movie, as they stretch the movie longer than it needs to be. For his first film, Ganesh Acharya has attempted to make a film filled with emotions and real problems. But living in the 21st century, movies such as Swami will only appeal to more mature audiences and not fans of masala films such as Dhoom 2. Still, simplicity is appreciated.