Critics divided as India releases Hindi-language remake of Forrest Gump

Fans and critics are divided over the Hindi-language remake of Forrest Gump.

The film titled Laal Singh Chaddha, which was released in theatres on Thursday (11 August), stars Bollywood actor Aamir Khan in the titular role alongside Kareena Kapoor and Shah Rukh Khan.

The film is a remake of Tom Hanks’s 1994 American film Forrest Gump, which is based on Winston Groom’s 1986 novel of the same name.

According to local reports, Laal Singh Chaddha has been filmed in more than 100 Indian locations. The movie’s principal photography began in October 2019 and concluded in September 2021, after multiple delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ever since Laal Singh Chaddha was announced, not many people have been happy about the remake of a film that has been constantly called “ableist.”

In the opening sequence of Forrest Gump, the lead character miraculously sheds his leg braces and is suddenly “cured” of his disability of a crooked spine.

Through the years, many people have pointed out that not only was that scene unrealistic but also ableist as Forrest shouldn’t have to lose his disability in order to succeed.

The Independent spoke to some disability rights experts and advocates to understand their perspective on the remake.

(Phillip Caruso/Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock)

“Not sure about Laal Singh Chaddha but at the starting of Forrest Gump, a child is shown running with his leg braces falling away,” Delhi-based disability rights advocate Shishir Bhatnagar said. “That was completely unrealistic and ableist.”

The 41-year-old advocate, who is suffering from quadriplegia from a spinal cord injury, added: “Such visuals, common in Bollywood movies, of PwD [persons with disabilities] magically standing up from wheelchairs and running or regaining sight to loud cheering is just demeaning.”

Arun Dahiya, a 29-year-old school teacher who has lived with small fiber polyneuropathy and multiple chronic illnesses for the past 20 years, said Forrest Gump was portrayed as “someone innocent and incapable of having other emotions”.

“It was ableist,” she says. “The film shows we should only exist as cured of our disability. Like our mobility aids are some kind of crutch that need to be shed off immediately.”

“These mobility aids give freedom to so many of us. And no, disability isn’t cured like that,” the 29-year-old teacher added. “We have similar rights to exist in our disabled not-so-perfect bodies without this constant sword of being cured to be acceptable hanging on us.

“Accept us as we are.”

(AP)

Indian news media website Firstpost gave Laal Singh Chaddha a two and a half out of five stars review.

“This film has some moving and thought-provoking elements, but the makers’ instinct for self-preservation causes them to dilute its potentially most compelling arguments in addition to skipping inconvenient truths about present-day India that could have given it the spark it sorely lacks in its current form,” Anna MM Vetticad wrote.

The Guardian’s Mike McCahill gave the film a three-star review, writing: “Aamir Khan’s best films have taken stands of various kinds; here, he’s running a little scared.”

Renuka Vyavahare of The Times of India gave the film three and a half stars out of five.

Lal Singh Chadha has been co-produced by Khan, under his banner Aamir Khan Films, alongside Viacom’s India film unit.

Khan announced the project on his 54th birthday, telling reporters at a media event: “We have bought the rights from Paramount. I have always loved Forrest Gump as a script. It is a wonderful story about this character. It is a feel-good film. It is a film for the whole family.”

The 1994 film, directed by Robert Zemeckis, took its basis from the 1986 novel of the same name by Winston Groom, spanning several decades in the life of its titular character, a kind-hearted, intellectually impaired man who witnesses and (unwittingly) influences several major historical events of 20th century America.

Hanks played the role of Forrest, winning the Academy Award for the role, with the film also winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, and Best Film Editing.