Director: Subash Ghai
Running Time: 3 hours
I Love My India. So goes one of the songs and
much of the sentiment in this enjoyable if highly xenophobic melodrama.
Being a Westerner and someone who finds ardent displays of nationalistic
and cultural pandering very distasteful (I refused to even watch the Winter
Olympics), I had to turn a blind eye to it here in order to enjoy this
film. If not, you could easily find it bordering on the insulting as Western
values and society is viewed as morally corrupt while Indian culture is
considered pure and untarnished. These (for me) dislikable aspects
of some Indian films are especially visible in stories that deal with Indians
living abroad (Non Resident Indians – NRI). The plots often center on the
inevitable culture clash between NRIs and local Indians and also how the
NRI’s yearn nostalgically for Mother India – and that no matter how their
living standards have improved by living elsewhere, it is no real substitute
for what has been lost. In films such as Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and
Kabhi Khushi Khabie Gham, this streak of Indian cultural superiority has
been touched upon but not with quite the ball-peen hammer touch that it
In a role very reminiscent of his in DDLJ, Amrish
Puri, returns to India after many years in the United States. He left India
long ago with only a few rupees in his pocket and became a millionaire.
Now he comes back to smell the soil of his homeland and to visit his old
friend, Alok Nath, who lives in the country with his large extended family.
In his short stay with the family he envies their closeness and values
and especially admires the old fashioned ways of the daughter Ganga (Mahima
Chaudhury) and decides that she would be the perfect wife for his son,
Rajiv (Apoorva Agnihotri). Rajiv has lived all of his life in the States
and has completely taken on Western values and Amrish believes that being
married to Ganga will inject the values and morals that are missing in
Knowing his son would be against a match with
a simple village girl, Amrish sends over his adopted son, Arjun (Shahrukh
Khan) to smooth the way. Arjun arrives like a fast talking cyclone and
soon has the family charmed. He tries modernizing the compound by moving
out the cows and goats, but Ganga stops him with a “to form new relationships
we do not break the old” that begins Arjun down the road to love. Rajiv
soon makes his appearance and is too charmed by the radiant Ganga and it
is agreed that she will return to America and live with the family until
the wedding takes place.
Back in America though, she is met with disdain
by much of the family who look down on her (as they also do on the adopted
Arjun) - and Rajiv begins to show his true arrogant and insensitive colors
(gasp – he smokes and drinks!). Only Arjun is there for her support – and
he persuades her to stay engaged to Rajiv. But after a ghastly night in
Las Vegas in which Rajiv tries to force her to sleep with him and even
worse – badmouths India – she can take no more. The ending becomes wonderfully
melodramatic – a fabulous scene of Shahrukh defending her honor as he slowly
and intentionally slides his hand down a sword drawing lots of his own
blood is chilling – “Ganga is as pure as the Ganges”.
Though parts of this film are somewhat offensive,
it is still solid entertainment with the actors all doing excellent work.
Amrish is cast perfectly as the kind but very stern father with his fierce
laser like eyes, Mahima is enchanting and sympathetic in her debut film
and Shahrukh is utterly likeable and decent as he falls in love with Mahima
but cannot display his feelings because of his loyalty to the family.
Even if there is no one song that is outstanding,
all six songs are quite solid and enjoyable. It begins with My India in
which a few kids are singing “I want to go to America” and Amrish gives
that disapproving look of his and changes their tune to I Love My India.
Its got a nice beat and I found myself singing the refrain for a few days
afterwards which might have struck some around me as odd! Mere Piya
is a dream sequence from Ganga as she runs through the fields – looking
smashing – and bicycling to the moon. Do Dil is a simple romantic ballad
and has the film’s most striking image of Ganga draped in an orange sari
against a lit up giant globe. Meri Mehboob is a bouncy number that is quite
good but Shahrukh should stay away from oversized goofy looking hats. The
final number (Nahi Hom Tha) is the most dramatic – a group of local performers
are singing with near religious fervor to the percussive beat and around
them the final scene plays out perfectly.
My rating for this film: 7.0