An exile is more than a geographical concept; you can be an exile in your own homeland, in your own house, in your own room.
– Mahamud Darwish
Ashutosh Gowarikar (Director) puts a beautiful story of an exile in front of us, slaps hard on our face and yet, we feel so proud.
The story is about Mohan Bhargava (Shah Rukh Khan), an NRI who has sought a career with NASA in The US of A. He was raised by Kaveri Amma (Kishori Ballal) till his education. Gita (Gayatri Joshi) is his childhood friend from Kaveri Amma’s house. I would call them peers. After achieving a peak in his career, Mohan comes back to India to take Kaveri Amma to US so that he can take care of her in her old age and give her some time which he could not, due to his education and career. Mohan meets Kaveri Amma after a series of incidents, and helps Kaveri Amma’s village getting a permanent solution on erratic electricity supply.
Actually, there’s a lot to learn from this movie.
The director comes up with a strong message of Brain Drain – a problem India faced or rather still facing. The youth goes out of their villages, towns and cities keeping their parents here, back home and they keep on waiting when my child will return. The issue is not about going out in search of better opportunity, but returning. Taking up an educational loan, studying abroad, the youth gets used to the foreign currency and they feel India is not the right fit for me, my skills and my standard of living.
The story takes place in a village where a primary school is run by Gita and students who pass out from there need to go to nearby Taluka place for secondary schooling, internet facility is not that great, for ISD calls, Mohan is dependent on a local post office and he takes a caravan thinking if he doesn’t get a place to stay, bathe, he could do it in his caravan. See the irony here, Mohan, who is raised by Kaveri Amma, is worried if he would get basic staying facility there; And that’s what I was talking about when I said getting used to the foreign land and not finding the comfort of homeland.
The exile begins here. The land you’re working in, pays you really well, but doesn’t give you your birthrights and you don’t like your mother homeland for various reasons. The discomfort is clearly and beautifully portrayed by Shah Rukh Khan. The struggle in his eyes, the body language is just perfect to the situation. He’s seen in that discomfort which is very relatable to the global audience who feel the same urge to come back to homeland but can’t for very valid reasons.
Mohan goes to the village, and finds Kaveri Amma staying very happily with Gita and Chiku (Gita’s younger brother). She’s a person of repute there in the village. The Sarpanch (head of village) and his consulting body is not very comfortable to any change in the situation, doesn’t want to run an extra mile to solve basic infrastructure issues. Mohan is found in a middle of a spat with the Sarpanch body of the village while discussing his life in US and assertively says India is not a great country anymore, there are many countries where good things are happening, they are using technology to help their people. We are having an extreme resistance towards change; also we, Indians close ourselves in a nutshell to call self king of the universe.
In a traditional dussehra festival in the village, post celebration the entire village goes dark due to electricity failure. Instead of taking some efforts, the entire village gets used to this sporadic electricity failure and don’t feel anything about it. Mohan decides to build a a self sufficient hydro-electricity plant for the village – taking some local help. Eventually, he leaves NASA and joins Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre to help his homeland grow.
We see Shah Rukh Khan in a completely different avatar in this movie. What all problems Mohan faces, how he convinces the villagers for their better future, how he copes up with NASA job, his realization of current status of Indian villagers, their poverty and himself being selfish to leave everything behind to go to the USA for his career; wherein Gita is trying to change things at the grass root level – SRK doesn’t make us feel he’s a star here. He is a scientist, a logical thinker and his eyes just speak that discomfort loudly.
SRK portrays exactly what the director wants to say. He’s alpha. He occupies the entire frame, yet doesn’t overshadows the side characters.
Gayatri Joshi does a decent job, as a lead lady, she could have done better. Chiku, Kaveri Amma, the Sarpanch, post master, Jhelaram do their bit perfectly and are remembered well.
Ashutosh Gowarikar doesn’t shy away from creating humor at some situations and makes the mood light at the perfectly balanced points. Different from his usual style I feel, A.R. Rahman is at his best for songs written by Javed Akhtar saab. The songs are melodious, appear at the right moment and have set up signature tunes in people’s minds. Dialogues and story aren’t the best, but I feel the silence at some points conveys a lot about the ongoing scene.
I hope we end this exile of discomfort in our own homeland and make our India great again.
HR by profession, heart of a fun loving photographer. A traveler, writer at times.