When talking about must-watch films of all time, Forrest Gump inevitably makes it to the list. The dynamic American history and culture through the eyes of a man who is slower-witted than average people lay down a surreal story with a pretty unorthodox viewpoint, which made this 1994 film Oscar-winning in multiple categories.
An Indian remake of this film had been in discussion for a long time. After eight years of effort, Aamir Khan finally managed to get approval from Eric Roth, who was the screenwriter of the original film, to produce the Indian remake along with director Advait Chandan - Laal Singh Chaddha.
This remake retains the characteristics of Tom Hanks' Forrest but replaces him with Laal Singh, an Indian Punjabi man.
Like Forrest's mother, his mother Mrs Chaddha is also the biggest inspiration to him, teaching him to think of life as Golgappe (popular street food in India, identical to Bangladeshi fuchka), instead of a box of chocolates.
Though Laal Singh is innocent and kind-hearted, he isn't treated as a normal person in society. But his mother's inspiration led him to overcome all the hurdles in life and aspire to enjoy his life from his simplistic view of the world.
Forrest Gump traverses through the tumultuous periods of modern American history. Forrest lived through America's questionable histories like the Vietnam War and the Watergate Scandal and somehow even became a part of them. Laal Singh also lives through history, but from an Indian perspective.
As a Punjabi, wars near the Pakistan border and anti-Sikh riots in Punjab are no stranger to him. Laal witnesses the disgraceful history of the riots, participates in the Kargil war and even wins a medal from the President for his heroism. Though some of the histories are shameful and people may feel pessimistic about them, from Lal's point of view, this is life.
But the movie is not only about Laal traversing through Indian history and culture. Laal's childhood sweetheart, Rupa, enters the Indian entertainment industry and the dark side of it as well.
She mirrors Jenny from Forrest Gump, whom Forrest loved all his life, experiencing the hippie anti-war culture of the US. Rupa has a pretty different perspective than Jenny, but in the context of ‘90s India, the infamous casting couch culture wasn’t unrelated to that time.
Atul Kulkarni tried his best to incorporate as many Indian elements as possible into the screenplay of this Forrest Gump Indian remake. Even though this is the Indian version of the original, it feels like trying to stay in the shadows of the original American one.
The characters are just swapped with the Indian version; even Forrest's friends Bubba and Dan are Laal's friends Bala and Mohammad here. This is a remake set in another country's context. It would have been nice to see some uniqueness in it, but the director and producers seemed to play it safe.
Even before its release, this remake faced some controversy. Laal Singh, recruited into the army despite having a lower IQ, was synonymous with Forrest's recruitment in the Vietnam War, but it was inaccurate as the Indian army requires certain IQ levels to be recruited.
Moreover, recent allegations against Aamir Khan related to religious sentiments ignited the old unrest in India that might also contribute to the screenplay being conservative.
Nevertheless, Laal Singh Chaddha is a pretty good Indian Forrest Gump remake, which tells the story of Indian history and its diverse culture from a simplistic worldview.