If there was ever a movie to deserve a remake, it might as well be Forest Gump. The story of Forest Gump is universal that follows a simple man who is thrown into various obstacles and adventures throughout his life. Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks adapted this story from Winston Groom's 1986 novel and made the Oscar Winning film Forest Gump. Almost thirty years later, Aamir Khan set out to make the Hindi-language remake titled Laal Singh Chaddha. At first glance, a Bollywood remake of one of America's most beloved films might seem silly or even in the same realm as a spoof, but with Aamir Khan's vision and commanding performance as the titular character, Laal Singh Chaddha stands on its own with some added creative elements that seem to fair better than the original film and proves that this story can and should be told in every language and culture. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
One of the many wonderful aspects of Forest Gump is its unique way of showcasing some of America's biggest historical moments, whether it be how Elvis learned his iconic dance moves, the integration of races in schools, political assassinations, the Vietnam War, and even how that infamous big round yellow smiley face was invented. Just like that single white feather floating on the wind, the character of Forest Gump somehow manages to float from one historical event to the next with ease, and everyone witnesses these chaotic moments through the eyes of a sweet, child-like man who just wishes to be loved and do right by people. Adding this one particular element makes it universal for any country or culture to adapt, so that it may teach other people around the world about their fantastic culture and rich history. This so happens to be the case with Laal Singh Chaddha in India.
Anyone could be quick to say that a Bollywood-ish remake of Forest Gump could very well mimic those over-the-top Hindi action movies and spoof American action films, but actor and producer Aamir Khan want to pay the ultimate respect to the story and the film that came before it in the best of ways, by showcasing India's many beautiful locations, rich history, and by casting some of the best actors in India in their respective and beloved roles. Laal Singh Chaddha follows basically the same exact story as Forest Gump, but adds India's culture as Laal (Khan) sits on a train, telling his story to its passengers. And just like the opening credits of that feather floating through the train station, getting rolled up and spit out by ceiling fans, train wheels, and people walking, Laal's journey starts and ends the same way as he is thrust into India's amazing and sometimes brutal history.
Laal's version of Jenny is Rupa (Kareena Kapoor), who goes down a much darker path in this story than in the original film. But her love of Forest and her willingness to be apologetic and own up to her mistakes makes this character even better than the one Robyn Wright Penn played in 1994. The Bubba character is now named Bala (Naga Chaitanya), and instead of the Shrimping business, he and his family are into the underwear business, which has a lot of funny moments in and of itself. The relationship between Laal and Bala seems more emotional and impactful. This time around, Laal allows himself to express stronger feelings than in Hanks's portrayal.
Of course, Laal's mother (Mona Singh), is pitch-perfect and evokes every bit of Sally Field's love for her son, even giving him wise information that Forest always reiterates to strangers. Perhaps the best-revamped character is that of Lt. Dan, formally played by Gary Sinise, who was Forest's Lt. in Vietnam and was saved from death by Forest when his legs were blown off by a bomb. This time around, the character is completely different but adds a much-needed and welcomed weight to the relationship between Laal and this new character named Mohammad (Manac Vij). This clever switch in character brings this Lt. Dan persona full circle and makes the story and film much better than its original inception with a beautifully compelling and inspirational transformation.
Revealing India's history through 1984's Blue Star Operation, the anti-Sikh riots, and the violent 1999 Kargil War, Laal allows his audience to witness what life was like in India at certain unstable times, but how love and acceptance can truly conquer all. And it is very evident that the only thing that Laal dislikes is when someone abuses Rupa and killing other people in war. Showcasing India's beautiful scenery from the golden garden of Punjab to the decadent city skylines of New Dehli, Laal Singh Chaddha looks simply exquisite and could be made for the big IMAX screen. There are quite a few callbacks to the original in terms of similar shots, but they work just as well here.
The performances by everyone are top-notch, but the shining star is definitely Aamir Khan, who is basically the Tom Hanks of India. His take on the character is a beautiful one, as he adds a little more emotional depth when it comes to happiness, love, and grief. It's no doubt that Hanks is missed here because his performance is so memorable and iconic, but Khan is amazing in this role and does it justice. And even though most people will know exactly what is to come in the next scene, the film will no doubt strike those emotional chords once again as if to be seeing it for the first time. Laal Singh Chaddha is a wonderful remake that everyone should visit once again. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!