Aamir Khan in 'Laal Singh Chaddha'
Aamir Khan in 'Laal Singh Chaddha' Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

Film: ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’

Director: Advait Chandan

Cast: Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Mona Singh, Naga Chaitanya

Stars: 3 out of 5

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Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor in the movie. Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

It’s undoubtedly audacious to transplant a deeply-entrenched American tale like Tom Hanks’ ‘Forrest Gump’ to an Indian reality, but Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan isn’t someone to shirk from a worthy challenge.

The lovable simpleton Forrest Gump from Alabama becomes the turban-wearing Laal Singh Chaddha from Punjab who is armed with some cheesy life lessons such as ‘Life is like ‘golgappas’ [Indian snack], your stomach is full but you heart yearns for more’. Yes, it’s cringe-inducing and saccharine but if you can get past Khan’s annoyingly child-like manner of speaking, you might start warming up to this film. Be warned, it takes you at least 30 minutes to warm up to Laal because his niceness is on the nose and is ingratiatingly cloying.

Somewhere along the way, the makers seem to have forgotten that the naivete that worked in 1994 with Hanks’ seminal act as the slightly daft titular hero won’t fly in today’s times. Our collective cynicism and inherent lack of trust in goodness of people comes in the way of us buying into Laal’s lilting voice and simplistic theories on life, love and everything in between. But Khan manages to pull it off to a large extent.

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Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

But then as soon as you get drawn into Laal’s life story, you may feel annoyed at his perseverance. In today’s woke times where consent is primary, you are thrust with a hero who relentlessly pursues his childhood sweetheart with as much tact as a bulldozer. There’s Rupa (Kareena Kapoor) who keeps rejecting his amorous advances because she has other plans and ambitions, but Laal doesn’t care for her rejections. His gentle nature is supposed to offset the simple fact that Rupa with a troubled past and toxic parent issues isn’t attracted to him romantically. A huge part of the film is a love story that’s seemingly pristine, but in many ways prurient. But what keeps this boat afloat is the earnest performances from the lead pair. They have a natural chemistry that makes their odd-ball pair convincing.

Speaking of neat, writer Atul Kulkarni and director Advait Chandan have done an impressive job of weaving Laal’s life to the historical events that played out in India during his prime years. Former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination and rise of capitalism in India have all been tapped into with great dexterity. Their choice of significant events that dotted Laal’s life is interesting and elevates this middling story a new level.

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Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

Just like how Laal’s unbelievable good nature takes time to be convincing, you need to be patient with this feature. It’s bloated and the run-time can be underwhelming, but what keeps you invested is how the actors and the makers pull all stops to give us a feel-good tale about how inherent kindness and loyalty can go a long way.

Seasoned actors such as Mona Singh as Laal’s sturdy mother and Naga Chaitanya complement the actors well. Just like how Khan’s optimism is jarring in the beginning, Chaitanya’s Bollywood debut role of a soldier who’s obsessed with creating an underwear empire is grating too. Together these two will give you a toothache with their combined loveliness. But that’s what they seem to be aiming for. There’s no space for meanness in this uplifting film.

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Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

Kapoor has a few emotionally-charged scenes in the film and she nails them like always. One of my favourite scenes in this film is when Laal meets the love of his life after several years at her home. Their re-union will make you reach for the tissues, but to get to that point you need to survive the bits where Laal doles out insipid life lesson in his eternal sunshine voice.

Watch this film if you are in the mood to hear some posturing about life and its complications simplistically. This is not a shabby adaptation, but don’t expect to be wiser after the film.

Don't miss it!

'Laal Singh Chaddha' is out now in UAE cinemas.