“Yeh mera India, I love my India!”
Using these lines, Subash Ghai made and promoted a film where the sentiment of loving your maatrbhoomi was re-enforced in almost every scene.
Much before the era of social media, where love for your country can just be proven by uninstalling Snapchat from your phone, this was the era when desh-bhakti songs were enough to make us chant Bharat Mata ki Jai.
At such a time, back in 1997, Subhash Ghai released Pardes, in the year that marked 50 years of Indian independence.
The popular feeling of celebrating the golden jubilee of India’s independence was everywhere and Bollywood was right at the forefront. JP Dutta’s Border had created a huge impact already and then, it was Pardes’ turn.
The film starts with Kishorilal (Amrish Puri), an NRI who loves all things desi and even though he lives and earns in the US, his great Indian dream is to find a desi bahu.
He’s quite a hotshot in New York because who else can get his son’s wedding announcement printed on the front page of New York Times, right?
He visits his friend’s village and finds the desi girl he feels will perfectly compliment his firang son.
The girl, though, is a simpleton. She loves everything Indian and runs through the fields chanting ‘I love my India‘ all day long. Her idea of a good boy is a man who doesn’t drink or smoke.
But when it comes to guessing who her prospective groom is, she actually chooses Apurva Agnihotri over Shah Rukh Khan. Who in their right mind would ever do that?
Of course, the film had various insignificant characters as well.
The Sri Lankan NRIs who treat the desi girl as the modern day Draupadi, the rest of the Kishorilal family who treat her as a third world creature and most of Arjun’s (SRK) band members who were left unnamed.
These side characters serve no purpose to the plot but only re-iterate the fact that everything Indian is always the best.
Much sanskari-ness later, desi girl’s vidaai happens.
Surprisingly, the parents sent their daughter away without a wedding. But what about the oodles of sanskriti they threw at us before this? That’s somehow never explained!
Kids these days wouldn’t know but there was actually a phase when everything western was followed by a hawww. Everything American was seen as infiltrating the Indian culture.
So naturally, all the ill-defined side characters from Kishorilal’s family were bad people. After all, they had lived in America for so many years!
In one of the most epic scenes from the film, desi girl even manages to send a snake away by bowing down in front of it.
The desi girl is clearly a misfit in the West and she makes it utterly clear in the Laaas Vegaaas hotel room (That’s not a typo. She says it like that.) by calling Rajiv (Apurva Agnihotri) a nishachar, which literally means nocturnal.
Her loner lover boy Arjun (SRK) saves her one more time and a dramatic climax later, Kishorilal’s desh-bhakti trumps once again.
Pardes got all the rewards for championing the Indian values but it was actually just the music of the film, by Nadeem-Shravan, that created an impact that still has the ability to make the audience sing along. Songs like Meri Mehbooba, Yeh Dil Deewana became instant hits and can easily be credited as contemporary classics.
Pardes was a three hour propaganda about the sanskari-ness of India by dissing every other culture.
And had the film released today, who knows, it might have won a National Award!