'Laal Singh Chaddha' Review: Aamir Khan lets his idealism colour this drama

The remake of 'Forrest Gump' is a lengthy, but feel-good story set in the heart of India

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Ambica Sachin

Published: Fri 12 Aug 2022, 3:34 PM

Last updated: Thu 18 Aug 2022, 2:08 PM

How do you transform a Hollywood classic like Forrest Gump, seeped in American history and ethos, into an Indian story over two decades later? Just watch Laal Singh Chaddha to realise how the magic of story telling can, in the hands of talented artists, metamorphose into an artwork that harks back to the original yet takes on a life of its own.

An official remake of the Tom Hanks-led Forrest Gump, Laal Singh Chaddha directed by Advait Chandan (Secret Superstar), places its protagonist Laal pat in the middle of 70s Punjab, where as a young boy (played with cherubic innocence by Ahmad Ibn Umar) saddled with physical disabilities and a slow mind, he is encouraged to believe ‘all is well’ with himself by a motivating mother (very aptly cast Mona Singh).

Laal stumbles through life, armed with unwavering optimism, but we are swept along on the uplifting journey, buoyed by extreme idealism. The Bollywood superstar plays the naive Laal with a familiar wide-eyed expression (P.K) and an oddly distracting speech mannerism. But the consummate actor Khan is, he never loses grip on his bumbling act.

Laal Singh Chaddha props its unheroic protagonist in a typical Bollywood setting, bursting at the seams with goodness - a loving mother, a gorgeous girlfriend and an extremely loyal friend martyred too early. Telugu actor Naga Chaitanya, as Laal’s barrack buddy, Bala from Bodipalem, obsessed with his family’s underwear business, is a bit grating admittedly, but impactful.

There are very many incredulous moments in the script that will leave you gobsmacked, but the effervescent quality of the movie gently propels you on.

Kareena Kapoor Khan as Rupa (the baniyan reference is a stroke of genius on the part of the writers) looks and acts the role of a fragile girl emotionally impacted by domestic violence. It’s a pity that her arc in the story, however dark and distressing, never actually takes center stage.

She is always in the periphery running from her own demons and forced to pay a heavy price for daring to pursue her dreams. Bollywood, as an industry, doesn’t come off smelling of roses either in the tragic story of an ambitious girl with stars in her eyes who is exploited by the powers that be.

Laal and Rupa’s life stories play out almost as a contrast between destiny and dreams - while the former is willing to let life dictate his moves, the latter struggles to realise her dreams. Sadly, the movie does not give her closure, just as life, we guess.

Atul Kulkarni’s brilliant adaptation places Laal Singh Chaddha in the midst of some of modern India’s most historic moments. Headline-grabbing events such as the assassination of Indira Gandhi, India’s World Cup win, the Mandal Commission and the Kargil wars all play out side-by-side as Laal bumbles about, only seeing the goodness in the world around him. The soulful soundtrack helps to keep us emotionally connected to the script.

We could harp on the saccharine idealism that weighs down the lengthy movie with messages about universal brotherhood; love is the solution to all ills, etc, sprinkled liberally around. But in the current scenario, a surfeit of feel-good factor and wide-eyed optimism isn't exactly the worst thing to come away with at the end of a movie, is it?

Laal Singh Chaddha

Director: Advait Chandan

Cast: Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Mona Singh

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Laal Singh Chaddha is currently playing in UAE theatres

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