Laal Singh Chaddha

Starring Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Naga Chaitanya, Mona Singh

Directed by Advait Chandan

Rating: *****

Once in a while in this imperfect world we get a near-perfect film about flawed characters trying to stay on the straight and narrow path. Actor-turned-screenwriter Atul Kulkarni’s adaptation of Robert Zemeckis’ 1994 classic Forrest Gump is every bit as charming disarming and enchanting as the original, and then some more.

Some characters specially that of the heroine is re-written to suit current times. But the spirit of innocence and faith remain intact. Through the naïve uncorrupted eyes of Laal Singh Chaddha we get a world-view of history as it unfolds from the Partition to the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

Each time communal/ethnic riots erupt , Laal’s mother(Mona Singh, yesterday’s Jassi today’s Mataji) warns her son to stay indoors, “Baahar mat jaana malaria phaila hua hai.”

Braving “malaria”( code for riots) Laal befriends a Pakistani infiltrator( Maanav Vij) . Soon they become partners in a chaddhi-banyan factory. Watching Aamir Khan sewing reams of underclothing, rescuing wounded soldiers during the Kargil war or wooing the love of his life, we are transported to a universe of unconditional arcadian innocence.

If Atul Kulkarni’s writing is lucid and lyrical, director Advait Chandan treats every sequence as poetry in an ocean. The characters caught in an immediate crisis, are enrapturing in their emotional resonance, none more so than Laal Singh, who is so innocent that when Rupa reveals her child’s father is Laal Singh Chaddha he exclaims, “Oh, his name is also Laal Singh Chaddha!”

The film never makes you laugh out loud. It isn’t meant to. The humour is subtle the mood is warm and the dramatic conflicts are identifiable within and germane to their socio-historic context. The narration spins a magical web of hope, heartbreak and reconciliation.

Aamir though a little exaggerated in his expressions of innocence, succeeds in making his hero’s characters prepossessing in his credulousness.

But is Kareena Kapoor Khan who imbues her character and the film with a looming incandescence. Playing the over-reaching doomed small-town girl with extra-large dreams Kareena gives a heartbreaking honest performance. With her rare blend of beauty and performing acumen she proves herself far ahead of her contemporaries.

Where do I place Laal Singh Chaddha in the phalanx of mediocrity in Hindi cinema? Far ahead of all that you have seen in recent years, Laal Singh Chaddha should be on your must-see list even if you watch only two films a year.