Laal Singh Chaddha vs Forrest Gump: How close is the Aamir Khan film to the original?
A brief look at some points where the Hindi remake of Forrest Gump differs from its original
Advait Chandan's Laal Singh Chaddha, an official remake of Robert Zemeckis’ 1994 film, Forrest Gump (which by itself, was an adaptation of Winston Groom’s novel by the same name) is a largely faithful adaptation. Considering that America's culture and political climate are integral to the film’s story, the makers have replaced them with events that hold equal gravitas from India’s recent history to set the story in our milieu; in other words, they cannot be necessarily called changes. For instance, the unrest that prevailed post the assassination of Indira Gandhi and its impact on the protagonist is an addition in the remake but it is largely true to the core idea of the original—a man who progresses along with the changing times. Hence, such additions are purely attempts to localise the story. The points mentioned below, however, are more inclined towards narrative choices that differ from the original but still fit into the overall scheme of the story.
This is neither a nitpicking nor an analytical exercise but a sheer observation of writing choices and how even minor tweaks can influence storytelling.
Life is a journey
First things first, the bus stop is a setting for Forrest Gump, with the titular character (Tom Hanks, in an Oscar-winning performance) sharing his story with bypassers waiting for their ride. Laal Singh Chaddha, however, moves the central setting to a train, which, in addition to bringing the film closer to home, clearly serves as a metaphor for the protagonist’s journey, one that involves forging new relationships and letting go of them midway. And what's a better symbol than a train to propagate this message?
It runs in the blood
In the original, Forrest’s commanding officer during his Vietnam tour, Lieutenant Dan Taylor, is portrayed as a man hailing from “a long, great, military tradition". It is also comically addressed that family members of his had served and died in every American war. In the remake, however, this backstory is applied to Laal and Lieutenant Dan’s arc, although incorporated in the form of another character, is told from a different perspective.
In the original, Lieutenant Dan (Gary Sinise) believes it is his destiny to die on the battleground with honour. When Dan is grievously maimed in a shootout in Vietnam, Forrest disobeys the officer’s orders to let go of him in the middle of the attack and saves him along with the rest of the platoon. Dan, however, loses both of his legs and begrudges Forrest for refraining him from reaching his destiny. In the remake, Dan is replaced with a terrorist, Mohammed, whom Laal ends up saving in the chaos of war. Unlike Dan, Mohammed doesn’t hold grudge against Laal and the two become business partners just like in the original. Mohammed gradually moves towards realisation and the eventual redemption is implied on a rather broader level--he decides to go back home and teach the importance of compassion to the upcoming generation. Dan’s arc in the original, however, was more personal, exploring his trauma and how he eventually makes peace with his life.
When Forrest is denied admission to a public school, citing his low IQ, his mother, Mrs Gump (played by the amazing Sally Field) sleeps with the principal to get her son into the school. The Hindi version, however, treats this angle with a pinch of sentimentality, with the mother (Mona Singh) offering to double up as domestic help and cook for the school’s principal. The man is quick to understand the lengths she is willing to go to to ensure her son's education and grants him admission. This change seems to have emanated from the need to uphold the mother’s purity and keep the film family-friendly.
More for Family-friendly film
In the original, Forrest experiences his first moment of physical intimacy with Jenny when she learns from him that he has never been physically close to a woman. This is another angle that has been left out in the remake, perhaps to keep the family-friendly tone intact. While Laal is consistently vocal about his feelings for Rupa (Kareena Kapoor), their relationship remains platonic for the most part, devoid of sexual implications.
Path of glory
Post the Vietnam war, Forrest’s exceptional ping pong skills propel him to national fame—from receiving advertisement offers to be invited on popular late-night shows. This is where Forrest’s journey grows larger-than-life. The Hindi version, however, completely eliminates the character’s tryst with the game and his quick rise to glory. The post-war sequences in Laal Singh Chaddha remain largely grounded as Laal is made the assistant coach of the army’s team of athletes. Laal has to run his way to fame years later, unlike Forrest.
The tragedy of Rupa
While Rupa’s arc is identical to Jenny’s, the aspirations that drive them are different. Jenny wants to be famous while Rupa chases money. The moments that define the genesis of their respective desires are also clearly spelled out. Jenny runs away from her father and prays to God to turn into a bird; she yearns for freedom. Rupa, on the other hand, prays to god to make her rich when her mother is beaten to death by her father for 10 rupees. The hippie lifestyle of ‘60s America is here replaced with the dark side of Bollywood often portrayed in films. The abusive relationship (as it is in the original) between Rupa and her partner—who is portrayed as a criminal—and the litigious aftermath bear a resemblance to the sensationalised Monica Bedi-Abu Salem case. When she comes back to Laal, she indirectly suggests that the criminal implications on her wouldn’t allow her to lead a peaceful life. This writing choice renders Rupa helpless and presents her in a more sympathetic light.