Mohan Bhargava (Shah Rukh Khan) is an Indian who works as a Global precipitation manager(GPM) at NASA in the United States. He keeps worrying about Kaveri Amma (Kishori Ballal), a maid at his home in Uttar Pradesh who looked after him during his childhood days. After his parents’ death, Kaveri Amma went to live in an old age home in Delhi and lost contact with Mohan. Mohan wishes to go to India and bring Kaveri Amma back with him to the US. He takes a few weeks off and travels to India. He goes to the old age home but learns that Kaveri Amma no longer lives there and went to a village named Charanpur a few years ago. Mohan then decides to travel to Charanpur, in Uttar Pradesh.
Mohan decides to rent a caravan to reach the village fearing that he might not get the required facilities there. Upon reaching Charanpur, he meets Kaveri Amma and gets to know that it was Gita (Gayatri Joshi), Mohan’s childhood friend, who had brought Kaveri Amma following her parents’ death to stay with her. Gita runs a school in Charanpur and works hard to improve the living conditions of the villagers through education. However, the village is divided largely by caste and religious beliefs. Gita does not like Mohan’s arrival as she thinks that he will take Kaveri Amma back with him to the US, leaving her and her younger brother Chikku alone. Kaveri Amma tells Mohan that she needs to get Gita married first, and that it is her responsibility. Gita believes in women empowerment and gender equality. This attracts Mohan towards Gita and he too tries to help her by campaigning for education among backward communities and also girls.
Slowly love blossoms between Mohan and Gita. Kaveri Amma asks Mohan to visit a nearby village named Kodi, and collect money from a man named Haridas who owes it to Gita. Mohan visits Kodi and feels pity seeing Haridas' poor condition, which is such that he is unable to provide his family with meals everyday. Haridas tells Mohan that since his caste profession of a weaver wasn't earning him any money, he shifted to tenant farming.But this change in profession led to his ostracization from the village and the villagers even denied him water for his crops. Mohan understands the pathetic situation and realises that many villages in India are still like Kodi. He returns to Charanpur with a heavy heart and decides to do something for the welfare of Charanpur.
Mohan extends his leave by three more weeks. He learns that electricity inconsistency and frequent power cuts are a big problem in Charanpur. He decides to set up a small hydroelectric power generation facility from a nearby water source. Mohan purchases all the equipment needed from his own funds and oversees the building of the power generation unit. The unit works and the village gets sufficient, consistent power from it.
However, Mohan is repeatedly called by NASA officials as the NASA project he was working on is reaching important stages and he has to return to the US soon. Kaveri Amma tells him that she prefers to stay in Charanpur as it will be difficult for her to adapt to a new country at her age. Gita also tells him that she will not settle down in another country and she would prefer it if Mohan stayed in India with her. Mohan returns to the US with a heavy heart to complete the project. However, in the US, he has flashbacks of his time in India and wishes to return. After the successful completion of his project, he leaves the US and returns to India with intentions of working at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center, from where he can also work with NASA. The movie ends showing Mohan and Gita staying in Charanpur following their wedding.Shahrukh Khan as Mohan Bhargava
Gayatri Joshi as Gita
Kishori Ballal as Kaveri Amma
Rajesh Vivek as Nivaaran
Makrand Deshpande as Fakir
Lekh Tandon as Dadaji
Daya Shankar Pandey as Melaram
Bachan Pachehra as Haridas
Vishnudutt Gaur as Vishnudutt
Farrukh Jaffar as Panch Fatima Bi
Visshwa Badola as Panch Munishwar
Bhim Vakani as Panch Narayan
Dilip Ambekar as Panch Hariya
Raja Awasthi as Panch Gungadin
Rahul Vohra as Vinod
Rajesh Balwani as Rahul
Peter Rawley as John Stockton
Smit Sheth as Chiku
Swades is inspired by the story of Aravinda Pillalamarri and Ravi Kuchimanchi, the NRI couple who returned to India and developed the pedal power generator to light remote, off-the-grid village schools. Gowarikar spent considerable time with Aravinda and Ravi, both dedicated Association for India's Development (AID) volunteers. He supposedly visited Bilgaon, an Adivasi village in the Narmada valley, which is the backdrop of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) movement. The people of Bilgaon are credited with doing 200 person-days of shramdaan (community service) to make their village energy self-sufficient. The Bilgaon project is recognised as a model for replication by the government of Maharashtra.
Mahatma Gandhi's great-grandson, Tushar Gandhi noted the theme of Gandhism in the film. He found it unfortunate that the movie was not box office success The name of the main character portrayed by Shahrukh Khan is Mohan, which was Mahatma Gandhi's birth name (Mohandas or "Mohan"). Swades opens with the following quotation from Gandhi:
Gowariker tries to address the lack of a scientific temperament and widespread ignorance among the rural folks through the energetic number "Ye Tara Wo Tara" where Mohan is seen encouraging the children to experience the fascinating world of stars through his telescope. In a symbolic manner, the song rejects the defunct divisions of caste and class and at the same time, through its protagonist, tries to instill in the audience an appreciation of curiosity and observation.
The role of Mohan was first offered to Hrithik Roshan who refused after reading the script. Then Shahrukh Khan got this offer from Ashutosh Gowariker.
Swades was the first Indian film to be shot inside the NASA research center at the Launch Pad 39A of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rainfall monitoring satellite known as the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) in the film is an actual NASA mission and was launched in 2014.
A major part of the movie was shot in Menawali, Maharashtra.
The film received overwhelmingly strong critical acclaim from critics. Most of the critics felt that Shahrukh Khan's performance in Swades was his best to date. Subhash K Jha of Indiatimes Movies gave the film 4.5 stars out of 5 and said "Swades is a unique experiment with grassroot realism. It is so politically correct in its propagandist message that initially you wonder if the government of India funded the director's dream."
Mayank Shekhar from MiD DAY gave it 4 stars, writing that "I cannot think of a better film for the longest that deserved a stronger recommendation for both touring cinemas of India's villages, and plush multiplexes of Mumbai or Manhattan." Jitesh Pillai of the Sunday Times of India gave the film 4 stars and said "After Lagaan, what? The answer's blowing in the wind. Swades. Here's the verdict: This is a gusty and outstanding film. Welcome back to real, solid film-making." He added "Swades is undoubtedly the No 1 movie of the year." Shradha Sukumaran of Mid-Day gave it 3.5 stars and said "At the end of it, Swades is a far braver film than Lagaan. It could have hit the high note — if it hadn't tried so hard."
Avijit Ghosh wrote in The Telegraph, "With its gentle humour, the film acts as an entertaining vehicle for social change. And hopefully, it will do more for positive nationalism than the Union government's Directorate of Audio Visual Publicity (DAVP) ads ever will."
Swades went on to become a cult classic and Khan's performance as Mohan Bhargava is considered one of his best by many.
Swades earned ₹152.5 million (US$2.4 million) nett in India. In the overseas market, the film made $2,790,000. It had a lifetime worldwide gross of ₹342.6 million (US$5.3 million). The film topped the Chennai box office on its opening weekend.
All lyrics written by Javed Akhtar; all music composed by A. R. Rahman.
The Tamil soundtrack under the title Desam was composed by A.R. Rahman. All Lyrics were written by Vaali. According to the Indian trade website Box Office India, with around 13,00,000 units sold, this film's soundtrack album was the year's eleventh highest-selling.National Film Awards
Best Male Playback Singer - Udit Narayan
Best Cinematography - Mahesh Aney
Best Actor - Shahrukh Khan
Best Background Score - A.R. Rahman
Nominated Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer - Master Vignesh & Udit Narayan
Global Indian Film Awards
Best Actor - Shahrukh Khan
Best Newcomer - Gayatri Joshi
Zee Cine Awards
Best Female Debut - Gayatri Joshi
Zee Cine Award Best Sound Re-recording - Hitendra Ghosh
Zee Cine Award Best Story - Ashutosh Gowariker
Zee Cine Award Best Director Critics - Ashutosh Gowariker
Star Screen Awards
Most Promising Female Newcomer - Gayatri Joshi
Stardust Award for Dream Director - Ashutosh Gowariker
Bollywood Movie Awards
Best Debut Female - Gayatri Joshi
Film Café Awards
Best Actor - Shahrukh Khan