India Uncut

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Friday, December 10, 2004

The men who inspired Swades

Their names are Anil and Madhu, and they built a dam. Ashutosh Gowarikar doesn’t want the story of his new film, Swades, to be leaked, but plenty of people in the Indian media are already talking about it, and it is unlikely to affect anyone’s pleasure in watching the film. So here’s the dope: Swades was inspired by an article Dilip D’Souza wrote about two young engineers, Anil and Madhu, who built a dam in a dam in rural Maharashtra, on a shoestring budget and with the help of local villagers, to supply electricity to a place that hadn’t ever had it. And they did it not once, but twice.

To understand why Gowarikar would have got inspired by these men, read D’Souza’s terrific articles on their dams at Domkhedi and Bilgaon – Bilgaon was, in fact, visited by Gowarikar and crew earlier this year.

I wasn’t very optimistic about the film when I first heard about it, one of the reasons for that being that it starred master hammer Shah Rukh Khan instead of Aamir Khan, who was so good in Lagaan. (The rationale for the casting was interesting, though. Read about it here.) But the promos look great, the music is growing on me, and from what I’ve seen in the trailors and heard from those who’ve seen a preview, Shah Rukh hardly hams in the film, and is subtle and understated. That will surely count as an achievement in itself for Gowarikar, but if his film is half as inspiring as the story of these two young men, it will just be the start of it.
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