Celebrating We, The People

Swades- We the People was released on 17 December 2004. My first look on the film was rather a disappointment as I saw it on a pirated VCD which had major edits with no “Ye tara vo tara” and “Yu hi chala chal” song. My redemption came in 2005, a year later when I saw it at a screening for some film festival.

Through all the odds and evens of life, I have often sought this film,  looked up to it, and relished upon its subtle magnificence.  If there be a moment, which could bring me back to life from death, it would certainly be the moment when Mohan Bhargava spreads his arms with his shadow falling behind the white screen in Ye Tara Vo Tara song.

Apart from these silly personal trivia related to the film, I felt like sharing certain aspects that one derives from repeated viewings of the film.

One can’t help but marvel how brilliantly Ashutosh Gowariker has adapted Mahatma Gandhi’s life story to chalk out Mohan Bhargava’s character.  The film begins with a Gandhi’s quote:

“Hesitating to act because the whole vision might not be achieved, or because others do not yet share it, is an attitude that only hinders progress.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Until recently I used to think it’s about doing what’s right, taking actions kinda stuff. But Gowarikar had actually dropped a clue in the first frame itself. The protagonist shares his first name with Gandhi’s real name and stirs up a set of ideologies like Mahatma did. Just like Gandhi, he is educated abroad, comes back and relates to the pain of his people, and gives his life a new direction after drinking that cup of water from an old boy…just like Mahatma might have done during his stay in Champaran, Bihar in initial days of his Indian political career.

But the bomber comes when one notices that Mohan’s initial quest was for Cauvery Amma -his childhood naany (so lovingly played by Late Kishori Balal)- it is with her where he would find his solace- a reminiscence of his times spent with parents-

” Khana banaye Maa, Khilaye Cauveri Amma; bistar bichay Maa…lori suinaye Cauveri Amma.”

Cauveri is an Indian river. And so is Sabarmati!  The river on whose banks, Gandhi setup his Ashram-the Sabarmati Ashram. Gandhi too was fond of Sabarmati river. From here, Gandhi led the Dandi march to break salt law in March 1930. In the film, we see Cauvery deliberately sending Mohan to seek rent from tenant Hari Das (played by Bachan Pachehra) so that Mohan could be sensitized about the problems local people are facing-a journey akin to Dandi March. The subsequent scene also has dialogue refering to salt:

Mere aansuo ka swad Mohan babu mere man ka namak hi samjh sakta hai.”

It is also said that “Bhagwad Gita” was recited in Sabarmati Ashram, as part of the Ashram schedule. Interestingly, the female lead portrayed by Gaytri Joshi is also named Gita- who tries to invoke his conscious in the opening of scene where she refuses to go US with Mohan-

“tum itna sab dekhne ke baad bhi yaha se jaana chahte ho?”

And finally, One feels for Melaram- the ambitious cook who wanted to open a dhaba on an Amriacan highway…oops…free way!! Gaaat it? If we recall the post-Dussehraa celebration scene where Bhargav reprimands the villagers on not taking substantial steps to eradicate their problems, Melaram is the first one to stand beside him in the frame. He brings the much needed comic relief till he brings all the emotions down our spines when he quips that one line

“Apne ghar ki bel agar padosi ke angan mein phoole to ghar ke armaan maati mein mil jaate hai.its like apni chaukhat ka diya….gibhing light to neighbours house…aal the bhery best Sir!!”

But the most amazing thing Melaram did was to stay without any sense of nostalgia or longing for love. In “Ye jo desh hai tera” song, we see Mohan sitting over the photos of the stay in India and being tragically nostalgic about Geeta, Cauveri Amma, and rest of people. Had that nostalgia not been there, perhaps he might not have returned. Melaram was an outcaste and he had no fans in his village. But still he chose to stay. If Mohan Bhargav was the protagonist, Melaram was The Hero of the film. The actor’s name is Dayashankar Pandey. We have seen him in films like Rajneeti and Gangajal. And the sensitivity with which he portrayed his character doesn’t surprise him being a writer as well! He has written scripts for TV series like Tarak Mehta ka Ulta Chashma,

In loving memory of late Rajesh Vivek, who played Nivaran ji- the adorable postman in the film……

~T T Papermate~

Papermate is just another face from the maddening crowd.
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