By HILARY FOX
Indian actor Aamir Khan enjoyed “Forrest Gump” so much that he’s starring in a Hindi remake. Released in 1994, the original film went on to sweep the Oscars, taking six trophies including best picture and best actor for Tom Hanks. Directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Eric Roth based on Winston Groom’s novel, “Forrest Gump,” is the tale of a slow-witted but mathematically gifted man who witnesses key points and figures of U.S. history, like the Vietnam War, presidents and Elvis Presley.
Nearly 30 years later, the story has been given an Indian makeover — with Khan taking on the role of the titular character “Laal Singh Chaddha” — including converting the line “Run, Forrest, run” into “Run, Laal, run.”
“I just remember seeing it a couple of times in a short span, and it had a deep impact on me, Khan says “I loved the character of Forrest. I loved the way Tom played the part as well. And it’s a film that stayed with me.”
It took a decade for Khan to get the movie rights. But big changes were made to root “Laal Singh Chaddha” in Indian history and culture, with both the Kargil war and superstar Shah Rukh Khan appearing.
Laal does not think life is like a box of chocolates, he instead likes to quote his mother talking about Golgappas – small circles of filled, deep-fried flatbread enjoyed with spiced water, which has a slightly different meaning than the original motto.
“(Forrest says) ‘my momma used to say life is like a box of chocolates: you never know which one you would get.’ And in this one, the English translation is, ‘My mama used to say that life is like a Golgappa: your stomach gets full, but your heart desires more,'” explains Khan.
He says writer Atul Kulkarni was adapting what was “essentially American” into something “quintessentially Indian and very relevant to us culturally.”
Directed by Advait Chandan, “Laal Singh Chaddha” also stars Kareena Kapoor Khan, Mona Singh and Naga Chaitanya.
Khan says he asked Kapoor Khan, who’s had a successful career for more than two decades, to try out for the pivotal role of Laal’s friend, Rupa D’souza.
“She’s such a huge star and she’s never auditioned for a part in her life. But for me, doing an audition for the part is perfectly natural because even I want to see how close I am to the character. So we’re not really testing to see that a person can act or not, but really how suitable the person is for the part. But that’s something which is very unusual in India.”
Another huge star who makes a small but important appearance in the movie is legendary Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan. No audition needed, as he’s portraying himself.
“We were trying to look for an equivalent to Elvis Presley in America. And I think for us, it was an obvious choice to go for Shah Rukh, because he’s such a huge star and everyone loves him so much,” Khan says. “He was really sporting and generous and said, yes, I’d love to do that.”
“Laal Singh Chaddha” is releasing around the world this month — including on 350 screens in the U.K., which is a new record for an Indian movie.
“I’m really nervous,” Khan admits.
“It’s a film that we’ve made with so much love and care and it’s been such a challenging film to make. The whole journey has been difficult but exciting and fun.”
A lot of that journey was spent sprinting towards the finish line — and he “ran a lot,” Khan says.
“For a month and a half we were traveling across the country, and each place we went to I just was running, and Advait as a director was quite heartless. He would start a shot and he would be in the car, and there would be a camera in the car, and I would be running and the car would be just driving, and it would be a few kilometers by the time he said cut.”
“Laal Singh Chaddha” releases in India, Germany, France, Singapore, the U.K. and the U.S. on Thursday.