Forrest Gump’s mamma always said life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get, but the Indian remake Laal Singh Chaddha is nothing like a box of chocolates. In this case, audiences will know exactly what their gonna get as the film follows the majority of the same beats as the original Forrest Gump film and novel but with Indian cultural references. Because of their similarity, Laal Singh Chaddha can feel rather lackluster as it goes through the motions rather than carve out its own path. The performances and production are fine, but it’s difficult to leave a lasting impression when you have to live in the shadow of the original.
Laal Singh Chaddha (Aamir Khan) is sitting on a train when he begins to tell his story to nearby passengers. As a kid he wore leg braces and was a bit slower when compared to others, but his mother always pushed him to not let his disability define him. With an upbeat and positive outlook on life, Laal finds himself embedded in various moments of India’s history and making an impact on everyone he comes across. For him though, everything always comes back to his childhood friend and crush, Rupa (Kareena Kapoor), who showed him kindness when no one else would.
Forrest Gump remains an absolute classic and the majority of that is due to Tom Hanks’ brilliant award-winning performance. It’s a high bar to live up to, and as entertaining Aamir Khan is, he’s no Tom Hanks. Laal Singh Chaddha is an interesting and captivating character. I enjoyed the fact that the film puts him on a train surrounded by other passengers who initially see him as just some strange man but are then drawn in and captivated by his story. I likely would be too if it was a story I hadn’t already heard before. Still, he is quite charming and Khan does an adequate job at capturing the essence of the character. It’s just difficult to not constantly have Forrest Gump in the back of your mind throughout the entire film.
The story remains mostly the same in its larger strokes. Like Forrest, Laal is confined to braces before being chased down by bullies and told to run by Rupa. Small changes are made, like having Laal run track instead of football. He does go to war, though, where he meets his versions of Bubba and Lieutenant Dan. Laal’s best friend is Bala (Naga Chaitanya), who instead of shrimp is in the undergarments business. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the remake is how it handles Lt. Dan’s counterpart, Mohammad Paaji (Manav Vij). Rather than being part of the army, Paaji is part of the enemy forces who amidst the chaos ends up getting picked up and carried to safety by Laal. This adds a whole different layer to both characters, with Paaji initially hating Laal because he saved him from a honorable death on the battlefield but then ends up befriending him because of his giving spirit. It brings a richness and depth to the characters that is otherwise missing.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am not that knowledgeable on India’s history so the scenes in which he finds himself embedded within these history-making events aren’t as impactful for me as they might be for someone more familiar with its culture. I cannot comment on its depiction is either, good or bad. Like Forrest Gump, the scenes are more of another storytelling device that caters to his impact on everyone he meets.
Did there need to be a Forrest Gump remake of any kind? No, not really. And yet here is Laal Singh Chaddha. Both the performances and production value are good enough to be entertaining, but at almost two hours and 40 minutes, the film can somewhat drag on considering many viewers are going to know how things already play out despite the minor differences. While it does bring some new elements to the table, it’s not enough to separate itself from the original in any substantial way. But in the end, chocolate is still chocolate, whether it’s familiar or not.
Laal Singh Chaddha can feel rather lackluster as it goes through the motions rather than carve out its own path. The performances and production are fine, but it’s difficult to leave a lasting impression when you have to live in the shadow of the original Forrest Gump.