The beloved Bollywood star goes for a run in Tom Hanks With his affable public image and effortless career transition from a bankable leading man to an elder statesman of sorts, no other Bollywood star can be more accurately described as India’s Tom Hanks than Aamir Khan. And as fate would have it, Khan is stepping into Hanks’ shoes as the star of the Indian remake of Forrest Gump, Laal Singh Chaddha, which debuted in theaters on Thursday, in time for the extended Independence Day weekend.
America, director Robert Zemeckis’ Oscar-winning original film doesn’t immediately lend itself to a recontextualization for a foreign audience; but with minor tweaks and major overhauls, Khan managed to retool the soaring drama for Indians accustomed to colorful, genre-fluid epics. He detailed the process in an interview with the BBC, revealing the alterations began with the framing device of the film in India, it’s a little difficult to sit on a park bench and have a conversation, it’s rather noisy and crowded. So we couldn’t imagine setting it at a bus stop. In India, trains are the most used form of transport, and it’s very common for passengers to exchange stories on a long journey, so that’s how we set the piece.
While the trailer teased scenes that would be familiar to anybody that had watched the original, there were several key differences. The first (and most obvious) was that Khan is playing a Sikh man who wears a turban at different stages of his life. Secondly, the famous box of chocolates had been replaced by golgappas — a savory snack of puffed balls filled with spiced water that is popular all across India. And thirdly, Laal’s journey coincided meaningfully with important moments in India’s history — from riots to wars, sports victories and political turmoil, all told through the lens of a Sikh man for the film, which took 14 years to produce — the majority of which were spent acquiring the original’s rights — Khan is collaborating once again with director Advait Chandan. The filmmaker made sure that Laal Singh Chaddha, in true Bollywood fashion, featured numerous songs, stating, If a film does not have songs, it does not feel Indian to me. The songs in the film reflect Laals feelings, evoking the same emotional response in the audience.
Khan’s first collaboration with Chandan, Secret Superstar, featured him in a supporting role and became a runaway hit in China, finishing with over $150 million worldwide. Before that, Khan had starred in the sports drama Dangal, which remains the highest-grossing Indian film of all time, with $330 million worldwide (over $200 million of which came from China). To Western audiences, he’s probably best known as the star of the Oscar-nominated period epic Lagaan.
Laal Singh Chaddha stars Aamir Khan in the role that won Tom Hanks an Oscar. Bubba from Alabama is Bala from Bodipalem in Laal Singh Chaddha, the Indian remake of Forrest Gump, starring Aamir Khan in the role that won Tom Hanks an Oscar. A new video shared by Viacom18 Studios introduced actor Naga Chaitanya as Balaraju and offered several behind-the-scenes glimpses at the film, which will finally arrive in theaters next month after a majestic production that lasted the entire pandemic.
The four-minute video immediately teases how different (yet familiar) Laal Singh Chaddha could be. While Bala’s introductory scene appears to be broadly similar to how Mykelti Williamson’s Bubba was introduced in Forrest Gump, the scene is — in typical Bollywood fashion — noticeably brighter to look at, and drenched in local flavor. Bala, for instance, is from a small town in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Chaitanya explains in the video how second names in many south Indian cultures are derived from hometowns, which is why Bala’s full name is Balaraju Bodi.
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