Swades, starring Shah Rukh Khan, is considered a cult masterpiece today, yet it has courted controversy on occasion.
Every Indian will always have a special place in their heart for the film Swades, which stars superstar Shah Rukh Khan and gives us a fantastic sense of pride and nationalism. This Ashutosh Gowariker film eloquently captures the sense of belonging to one’s nation and inspires us to feel patriotic even over two decades after it was first released. Swades meets all the requirements to become a cult classic, including the songs, the narrative, the dramatic performances, and everything else that goes into a movie. The National Film Award, the highest accolade, was not won, though.
An old video with a Swades connection has recently surfaced amid the excitement surrounding the announcement of the 2021 National Award winners. This video likely explains why the movie failed to win even the National Award for Best Feature Film, despite boasting strong patriotic sentiments—a formula that has always been successful for Bollywood.
In the video, Kannada filmmaker T S Nagabharana accuses Swades of plagiarising him. Amazing, huh? “I was getting feedback from Mumbai that there is some film called Swades, and on December 17, 2004, when the film got released, I was shocked to see,” the filmmaker of the video claims. The movie Swades, which I shot in 2002 and released in 2003, is virtually an exact clone of mine. He adds that he attempted to reach Ashutosh and the producers but was unable. “That’s the generosity of South Indian filmmakers,” he continues, “so I just kept quiet,” he says while beaming with great delight. “When I asked my producer, he said, don’t go for legal action because it is also a film and let everybody enjoy that.”
While Nagabharana did not object to the copying, he was “a little irritated” about the competition (in National Award). “I told the other jury members that the movie was a remake of mine; you can compare it to that. When I showed them my movie, they questioned why I hadn’t sued him. Halla Gulla is not what I desire, I retorted. In the video, he argues that Page 3 won because “I am a filmmaker.
It’s important to note that many people have claimed that Swades, a 90s programme, served as the film’s influence. In the episode “Vapas” of the anthology Love Stories, Ashutosh played the NRI Mohan who returned to India to see his Kaveri Amma and fell in love with Geeta, evoking memories of the events in Swades. According to some stories, the plot of the movie was also influenced by Aravinda Pillalamarri and Ravi Kuchimanchi, who went back to India to create a pedal-powered generator.
Despite being a box financial failure, Swades now has its own fan base.