Set in modern day India, Swades is a film that tackles the issues that development throws up on a grass root level. It is to this India, which is colorful, heterogeneous and complex that Mohan Bhargava (Shah Rukh Khan), a bright young scientist working as a project manager in NASA, returns to on a quest to find his childhood nanny. The film uses the contrast between the highly developed world of NASA, which has been at the forefront of advances in space research, and this world back home in India, which is at the crossroads of development. Mohan’s simple quest becomes the journey that every one of us goes through in search of that metaphysical and elusive place called “home”.

Beautifully cinematized, Swades brought tears in my eyes and a pain in my heart when I saw it the first time after it’s release in 2004. I just saw it again and it’s triggered thoughts of returning back to India again.

Maybe it plays on my nostalgic Immigrant self, or perhaps it truly shows what one person can do to bring change in his environment. That an Engineer who lives in the US could go back to rural India and put together a mini-hydel power-plant, bringing illumination to the hundreds of underprivileged people of the village, or that he could return back and live amidst them is an inspiring idea for millions of young NRIs who have the potential to make a HUGE difference in India today. Admittedly a lot has changed in the five years since it’s original release (in our exponentially accelerating world), but the problems of poverty, illiteracy, lack of infrastructure and social injustice still exists in rural India.

This fantastic movie raises the question — “What are we willing to do for our own people”?

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