If ever there was a mainstream Hollywood story that had the legs to run on the Indian cinematic terrain, it was Forrest Gump. Advait Chandan’s faithful adaptation of Eric Roth’s sweeping story of a gentle, simple-minded soul running away with the cruel world, promises that instead of opening a box of sweet chocolates, it will offer a box full of gol gappas, the crisp rounds of hollow bread that are consumed with spicy water.
However, writer Atul Kulkarni evades the unhygienic areas that the metaphor suggests it will take us to, and offers us some sanitised and bland water balls in a world that is a lot more complex and political than when Gump emerged on the scene in 1994, starring Tom Hanks.
Over the last three decades, with the shift in culture and advancement in cinematography, the Robert Zemeckis fable has lost some of its feel-good quality and technical brilliance. It percolates into LSC as well; we have already seen shades of Gump in My Name Is Khan and PK. But unlike the two, LSC hardly asks any hard questions. It races past the landmark events since the Emergency, providing more dressed-up nostalgia than nuance or engagement with pressing issues.
The inherent goofy humour of the original is intact and there are some leaps of imagination like Shah Rukh Khan’s cameo, Manav Vij’s turn as a Pakistani mercenary, and Naga Chaitanya as a solider whose ambition is to make briefs and vests. But somehow Kulkarni could not imbue the screenplay with the fragrance of the Indian soil. Despite some enchanting visuals, it remains a copy.
The romance between Chaddha (Aamir Khan) and Rupa D Souza (Kareena Kapoor Khan) fails to create ripples because though Chaddha says he understands love, the writer makes Rupa suffer for her wrong choices in profession and boyfriends. He could have at least asked Shah Rukh for help!
More importantly, Forrest Gump was essentially about how America withstood the internal and external threats in the 1960s and 70s and evolved only to run into new challenges. Here, apart from the anti-Sikh riots that affect a young Chaddha, the rest of the socio-political churn fails to create emotional upheaval. Once the umbilical cord between the events and Chaddha’s life is broken, the screenplay starts resembling Chaddha’s almost neurotic obsession with running. The film talks a lot, almost tutors the audience, and doesn’t allow the visuals to communicate. Pritam’s music isn’t bad, but doesn’t provide the much-needed local flavour to the narrative.
Similarly, Advait is competent, but is like that efficient factory worker who has to make a new product from an old dye. One wonders whether Raj Kumar Hirani and Abhijat Joshi would have been a better choice to bring Forrest closer home.
Laal Singh Chaddha is currently running in theatres