Mohan Bhargava (Shah Rukh Khan) works as a project manager at NASA in the United States. He keeps worrying about Kaveri amma (Kishori Ballal), a maid at his home who looked after him during his childhood days. After his parents' death, Kaveri amma left to an old age home and lost contact with Mohan. Mohan now wishes to go to India and bring back Kaveri amma with him. He requests for a couple of weeks off and leaves to India.
He goes to the old age home in Delhi but learns that Kaveri amma has left to a village called Charanpur a few years back. Now Mohan decides to reach Charanpur.Mohan, a rich guy by birth and has got used to a sophisticated lifestyle in the US, decides to rent a caravan to reach the village fearing that he might not get the required facilities in Charanpur. Reaching Charanpur, he meets Kaveri amma and gets to know that it was Gita (Gayatri Joshi), Mohan's childhood friend who had brought Kaveri amma following her parents' death to stay along with her. Gita runs a school in Charanpur and works hard in improving the living conditions of the villagers through education which is divided largely by caste and religious beliefs.
Gita does not like Mohan's arrival as she thinks that he will take Kaveri amma along with him leaving her and her brother Chikku alone. Kaveri amma tells Mohan that she needs to get married Gita first and that is her big responsibility. Gita believes in women empowerment and gender equality. This attracts Mohan towards Gita and he too tries to help her by campaigning for education among backward communities and also girls.Slowly love blossoms between Mohan and Gita.
Now Kaveri amma asks Mohan to visit a nearby village Kodi and collect money from Haridas who owes it to Gita. Mohan visits Kodi and feels pity seeing the poor condition of Haridas where he is unable to even have a three course meal every day. Haridas tells that he cannot change his profession as it is not permitted in the village. Mohan understands the pathetic situation and realizes still many villages in India are the same like Kodi. He returns back to Charanpur with a heavy heart and decides to do some favour for the welfare of Charanpur.
Mohan extends his vacation by three more weeks. He gets to know that power interruption is a big problem in Charanpur. He decides to set up a small hydroelectric power generation facility from a nearby water source. Mohan purchases all the equipment needed from his own fund and he sets the power generation unit which becomes a success and the village gets sufficient power from the new generating facility.But Mohan is repeatedly called by the NASA officials as the project is critical and he has to leave to the US now.
Kaveri amma tells that she prefers to stay in Charanpur as it will be difficult for her to accommodate a new country at this age. Also Gita tells that she will not settle down in another country and she prefers to stay in India with Mohan. Mohan now leaves to the US with a heavy heart as he has to complete the project over there. Even at the US, he keeps remembering the incidents in India and wants to get back. After the successful completion of his project, he resigns his job in NASA and comes back to India with plans of joining Vikram Sarabhai Space Center.
The movie ends showing Mohan and Gita staying in Charanpur following their wedding.The film received overwhelmingly strong critical acclaim from critics. Most of the critics felt that Shahrukh Khans performance in Swades was his best till date. Subhash K Jha of Indiatimes Movies gave 4.5 stars out of 5 and said Swades is a unique experiment with grassroot realism.
It is so politically correct in its propagandist message that initially you wonder if the government of India funded the directors dream.Mayank Shekhar from MiD DAY gave 4 stars and called it bravo! and added I cannot think of a better film for the longest that deserved a stronger recommendation for both touring cinemas of Indias villages, and plush multiplexes of Mumbai or Manhattan. Jitesh Pillai of the Sunday Times of India gave 4 stars and said After Lagaan, what? The answers blowing in the wind. Swades. Heres the verdict: This is a gusty and outstanding film.
Welcome back to real, solid film-making. He added Swades is undoubtedly the No 1 movie of the year. Shradha Sukumaran of Mid-Day gave 3.5 stars and said At the end of it, Swades is a far braver film than Lagaan. It could have hit the high note â€” if it hadnt tried so hard.
Swades went on to become a cult classic and currently holds a rating of 8.5 out of 10 on the Internet Movie Database , and Khans performance as Mohan Bhargava is considered one of his best by many. Avijit Ghosh wrote in The Telegraph, Kolkata, With its gentle humour, the film acts as an entertaining vehicle for social change. And hopefully, it will do more for positive nationalism than the Union governments Directorate of Audio Visual Publicity (DAVP) ads ever will. Few recent Bollywood films have songs so beautifully integrated with the script.
If only debutante Gayatri Joshi could emote, many scenes could have had so much more spark. Acting out a village school teacher with a mind of her own needed a new millennium Nutan, not a pretty, slimline dummy. Swades is naive. But it is also decent, chaste and brave. Only the boldest of filmmakers can make a mainstream movie where the climax is not about saving the country from terrorists or uniting desperate lovers but getting electricity to a north Indian village.
Shahrukh Khan, Gayatri Joshi, Kishori Ballal
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A. R. Rahman