A film like SWAMI takes you back to the cinema of 1960s and 1970s. A simple story with simple characters, captured on celluloid in the most simplistic fashion. Come to think of it, a subject like SWAMI is a rarity today. In an era where commercial trappings, spell-binding visuals and technical wizardry are used as tools to garnish a film, SWAMI is as fresh as the morning dew.
On the flip side, SWAMI has not much to offer to viewers shelling out Rs. 150 / Rs. 200 for a ticket at multiplexes to watch larger-than-life movies. A story of a middle class family, with songs playing in the background, no great visuals / sets, no masala, no sub-plots, SWAMI caters to a really tiny sect of viewers that has an appetite for this kind of cinema. For the wide majority, it's akin to treating oneself with boiled food, with no spices to tempt the taste buds.
Yet, all said and done, SWAMI marks the birth of a sensitive storyteller -- Ganesh Acharya. The film is rich in emotions and that's one thing that can never go out of fashion.
Swami [Manoj Bajpai], Radha [Juhi Chawla] and their kid [Siddharth] shift to Mumbai after selling off their ancestral home in a village. In Mumbai, they get their kid admitted to a school that's patronized by children belonging to affluent families.
Everything is going fine until Radha falls ill and is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Swami starts working overtime to raise funds for the operation, but Radha spends the entire amount on a chair that Swami wants to possess so dearly.
Radha passes away with just one desire: The kid should settle down in America some day. How Swami works towards that dream is the remainder of the story.
SWAMI has an absorbing first hour. The simple story with simple situations gets finely tuned due to Manoj, Juhi and child actor Siddharth's true to life performances, besides Ganesh's execution. In fact, a number of scenes make you moist eyed in this hour and you can't help but reach out for your kerchief.
But the second hour plays truant. The story stagnates in this hour as a few new characters are injected -- the friends at the park. These characters are a complete put off and only act as a spoke in the wheel. In fact, this portion should be trimmed instantly to keep the movie on the right track.
The writing [screenplay: Bhavani Iyer, Muazzam Beg] is interesting in parts. If the first hour is taut, there's not much to look forward to in the second hour. This half has two incidents mainly -- the daughter-in-law selling off the chair and the son's trip to America. Besides these, the writers should've incorporated a few more dramatic moments to keep the interest alive.
Ganesh Acharya has handled the emotional scenes very well. Also, he has drawn wonderful performances, not just from seasoned actors like Manoj and Juhi, but also from debutante Maninder and also the child artist. There's no scope for music [Nitin Arora, Sony Chandy] in the film and the song or two in the background are strictly okay. Cinematography [Lenin] is alright.
Manoj Bajpai is tremendous yet again. This is yet another performance he underplays beautifully. Juhi Chawla is effective enough, though one misses her in the second hour. Maninder is first-rate. The newcomer holds his head high despite scenes with Manoj. Neha Pendse is okay. Siddharth is adorable. The kid is sheer magic on screen.
On the whole, SWAMI is for a miniscule section of moviegoers only. At the box-office, it'll have to rely on a strong word of mouth to stand on its feet.