LAAL SINGH CHADDHA (2022)

Aamir Khan in a still
  • Release Date: 11/08/2022
  • Cast: Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Mona Singh, Naga Chaitanya Akkineni
  • Director: Advait Chandan

Underwhelming, poorly acted, and emotionally hollow! LSC will only open a whole new can of worms with its portrayal of terrorists

— Ambar Chatterjee

There can be many reasons to remake a film in a country that is as vast and culturally diverse as India. The first and foremost can be repositioning an already successful film in a region where not many have seen the original. The original being a hit with the masses of a different region, the makers can put in an effort to tap into the same aspects of the film that appealed to different audiences. They must, however, keep in mind the regional and the cultural dynamics of the region that they are remaking and releasing it in. The best examples of these kinds of remakes are Rowdy Rathore (Akshay Kumar, 2012), and Wanted (Salman Khan, 2009). Another reason to toil hard on a remake can be that the makers of the remake have a revolutionary new vision for the original concept and their treatment of the subject and the characters would end up making it a whole new film. Evaru (Adivi Sesh, 2019) and The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006) are perfect examples of this reason to remake a film.

The third and final reason to remake a classic like Forrest Gump could be that the makers of the film want to present the same story and grasp the same emotional thread that the characters and story of the original were able to conjure up but re-imagine them for an entirely new and culturally diverse setting where the events and the emotional beats will have to be changed and mapped with what is prevalent in the region that the remake is set in. In the process, the makers would tell the same story, with the same emotional cues but they will be initiated and catalyzed by moments, events, and cultural traits that would be totally different from the original.

As I sat patiently through Laal Singh Chaddha and viewed it with an open mind, I realized that the writer Atul Kulkarni and director, Advait Chandan were not particularly sure of which of the above three paths they wanted to take for their film and this resulted in their film feeling different at different junctures and lacking the emotional core and structural integrity that made its original such a tear-jerker. Aamir Khan is often referred to as “Mr. Perfectionist” but this film proves yet again after Dhoom 3 and Thugs of Hindostan that he is not.

Inability to transform key moments from the original into the Indian perspective:-

Forest Gump is one of the most “American” American films. Its emotional cues and initiation of the titular character into key dramatic and historical moments are so immersed in American-ness and the American way of life that it is nearly impossible to translate these portions into any other culture and way of life. The film delivers emotional and dramatic punch after punch and it never feels slow or boring because of the power that these emotional and dramatic moments have. They have this power because they are embedded in real history, way of life, culture, and tragedy that is extremely relatable but in an American context. When Advait Chandan and Atul Kulkarni try to put the same story in the Indian context, they lose a lot of its inherent power. They are forced to make changes to moments in the original that liquidates the impact of numerous key moments and leads to the film feeling tiring and dragged even in the first half. By the time we reach the second half, the situation becomes worse.

Ahmad Ibn Umar as Young Laal Singh Chaddha

Lack of “a sense of urgency”:-

Laal Singh Chaddha lacks a sense of urgency and seriousness from start to finish. In a scene that should have been chilling, we see a young Laal and his mother played by Mona Singh somehow survive the terrifying massacre of the Sikhs after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. This scene comes and goes without leaving any impact. This lack of impact has as much to do with the execution of the scene as it has with the performances in the scene. A scene of this nature should have been terrifying but it is not. The same can be said about the Kargil war sequence where a major character dies but this sequence too feels oddly pedestrian and brings nothing special to the table. I didn’t care for any of the characters in this scene even though the film takes enough time to build these characters up and forge a bond with the audience.

Kareena Kapoor Khan sleepwalks through her performance:-

There is absolutely no feel for the character of Rupa that is assigned to Kareena Kapoor Khan. She neither looks the age nor feels like it. Her limitations are exposed even more in the scenes where she is portrayed as a college student. She looks disinterested in most of the sequences and even in key emotional moments, she keeps a straight face. We are asked to believe that she is an upcoming starlet who bewitches a major underworld don by her looks but the kind of wardrobe that is thrust upon her further destroys any chance of taking her character seriously. She just looks tired and certainly not the beauty that would incite the kind of romance that we are asked to believe that she did in Laal Singh Chaddha. There is no chemistry between her and Aamir and their scenes together feel lifeless. Her deficiencies feel even more pronounced when you compare her performance with Robin Wright’s smashing portrayal as Jenny in Forest Gump.

Aamir Khan’s uneven portrayal of Laal:-

While many will troll me for saying this but I have to admit that this was one of Aamir’s most uneven essays of late. He is unable to hit that sweet spot with the wackiness of Laal Singh Chaddha. He underplays the character in certain sequences and overdoes the wide-eyed fixed look with complimentary pauses in between sentences. I felt that he was trying to mishmash his characters from PK and Dhoom 3 (the mentally challenged twin) and draw a parallel with Tom Hank’s Forest Gump. Sadly, Hank’s Gump was a lot more serious, composed, reliable, and a normal guy whose limitations were just about noticeable. Aamir, overdoing his antics not only mars the believability of the character but also ruins the seriousness of the things that Laal is shown doing and achieving.

Naga Chaitanya Akkineni and Aamir Khan in a still

Mohammad Paaji and the unnecessary justification of terrorism:-

*****Spoiler alert*****

I hate to get into the subtle politic of films. Sadly, when the representations are so on-your-face and bizarre, there is no hiding from it. One of the biggest changes that the film makes to the plot of Forrest Gump is in the reimagining of a beloved character from the film — Lieutenant. Dan Taylor (Gary Sinise), the commander of Gump, who he saves. Dan loses his legs in the film and wants to die on the battlefield but Gump pulls him out against his will. The man suffers a lot, forges a lifelong friendship with Gump, becomes wealthy and later comes to appreciate Gump for all that he had done for him.

The same character here is depicted as a terrorist who attacks India during the Kargil War, is saved by Laal Singh Chaddha, is never discovered by the army, lives in India for years, becomes wealthy, is featured by a popular magazine, and then leaves for Pakistan to spread the message of peace. This character is shown in the most positive light possible even after he has gunned down hundreds of Indians. I wonder how the parents of people who lost their children in the Kargil war will react to these bits of the film. Not only is this the most stupid and off-putting portion of the film, it is also like rubbing salt into the wounds of hundreds who lost their near and dear ones to terrorist bullets. To depict the man as never receiving any punishment was just taking it a step further. No matter how much the makers try to justify or sugarcoat this portion, it will always be in bad taste and will definitely steer up further boycott calls against the film.

Final thoughts:-

There are a few things that can be applauded in the film. Some emotional moments do leave an impact. The music of the film is consistent and the “Phir Na Aisi Raat Ayegi” track was beautiful. The cinematography was great. I especially enjoyed the opening sequence. Aamir Khan shows some of his trademark sparks in certain sequences. Mona Singh is proficient as Laal’s mother. Having said that, Laal Singh Chaddha is still a mammoth disappointment. It should have been flawless. It should have been emotionally disarming and its titular character should have become an instant hit with the audience. Sadly, this film ends up being frustratingly average and its many takes on politics, religion, and God will open up a whole new can of worms.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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