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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

Aamir Khan’s latest film, Laal Singh Chaddha, is the Indian remake of the American epic Forrest Gump. Los Angeles-based Radhika Choudhari is the producer and director.

Written by Winston Groom, Forrest Gump is the story of a young boy afflicted with a neural condition, possibly autism or cerebral palsy. (The author is a historical writer but not a medical professional). Groom wrote a story about American life spanning 1950s to 1970s, using the story of a boy from a small town, Greenbow, in South Alabama.

The narrative in Forrest Gump chronicles countless historical events. The life of a single woman in rural America, a disabled child, alcoholism, child abuse, bullying, companionship, American football, Vietnam war, soldiers and their camaraderie, war veterans and PTSD, medals, two presidents—Kennedy and Nixon. Assassination and impeachment. Flower children. Hepatitis C. Elvis Presley. Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. About running to find answers.

Love. Loss. Nostalgia

But more than anything, the story is the existential quest of a young man who lives his life with a clear heart and an inclusive spirit. It is a story about the importance of instilling confidence in children. It is a story about childhood and how it shapes us. It is a great American classic. A story about love, loss, nostalgia. One of the most quoted movies of our generation.

When I moved to America in the early ’90s, I saw it and cheered Tom Hanks for his Oscar-winning performance and we repeated the phrase often: My mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. But when I watched it again after living in Alabama for so many years, I felt like I was sitting on the bench with Forrest Gump and sharing his life experiences.  

YouTube video
The official trailer for Laal Singh Chaddha.

Tom Hanks

I saw the Indian version of Forrest Gump this weekend. I was curious to see how screenwriters Eric Roth and Atul Kulkarni portrayed key elements of Indian history in the Bollywood version. I don’t want to reveal too much because I think the viewers should see it for themselves.

Aamir Khan has committed to emulate Tom Hanks in many ways. He even looks like him at times. The scenes and dialogues are in tandem, but the great actor that he is, he has left his own mark as the quintessential Laal Singh Chaddha: Dil changa te sab changa! (If the heart is good, everything is good).

 I loved Haley Joel Osmond as little Forrest. The innocent, steady gaze of little Laal (played by Ahmad Ibn Umar) is lovely to watch. As is his indelible faith in his mother’s advice: “Laal, ghar se bahar mat nikalna, malaria fail gaya hai.” (Don’t leave the house. Malaria is spreading). And his puppy love for Rupa, who can catch airplanes in her hands and loves to eat golgappas.

Sally Field

I think Sally Field is more memorable as Forrest’s momma than Mona Singh as Mrs. Chaddha, but I may be biased because I have lived in the American South for twenty-five years. Kareena Kapoor Khan, as Rupa D’Souza, does not appear as conflicted as Jenny(Robin Wright). The role of Mohammad paaji, as the reformed Pakistani terroristManoj Vij with amputated legs, comes close to the angry Lieutenant Dan Taylor

But the most entertaining character from both movies has to be Bubba (Benjamin Buford), with his big gums and a protruding lower lip. Equally remarkable is Bala (Naga Chaitanya). Their constant chatter about “butter shrimp, cajun shrimp, shrimp salad, cocktail shrimp…” and chaddi baniyan of various materials and styles respectively cannot be forgotten.I have eaten Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. at the pier in San Francisco and laughed. I know that Rupa Undergarments is a multimillion-rupee enterprise in India. From shrimp to chaddi—that was a smart switch.

Shah Rukh Khan

Although I think it is commendable to remake the Forrest Gump movie in Hindi, there are so many other Indian stories that deserve to be told and retold. Nevertheless, I love the sufi songs written by Amitabh Bhattacharya and set to music by Pritam Gurbani. Who can resist the magic of yellow mustard fields?

Aamir does look nice in a turban and beard. It was great to show the story unfold in the second-class compartment on a train journey. To bring Kamini Kaushal in a cameo appearance was a nice touch. Shah Rukh Khan’s cameo looked a bit superfluous. Is he the Indian Elvis?

The son of Rupa and Laal is not named Laal in this movie, but Aman, and he is adorable with his “jee papas.” The film is worth a watch, but I don’t think that Laal Singh Chaddha will become a household name like Forrest Gump

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Monita Soni

Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two...