I know that now one cannot imagine somebody else in the iconic character of Mohan Bhargava which superstar Shah Rukh Khan played with so much conviction and subtlety in the film ‘Swades’ (2004), but you will be surprised to know that before Shah Rukh came onboard, filmmaker Ashutosh Gowarikar had approached Hrithik Roshan to play the male protagonist in the movie. After working with Mr. Perfectionist in the sports period drama ‘Lagaan’ (2001), which even went to Oscars, Ashutosh was keen on working with Hrithik Roshan as he thought he suited the character of Mohan Bhargava very well. But unfortunately, his dream could not come true back then as the new superstar declined to sign the film. Several media reports also stated that Ashutosh made several changes in the script, but even then he could not convince the actor and finally had to give up on roping in Hrithik Roshan in the movie. Since the film demanded a big star, Ashutosh decided to talk to Shah Rukh Khan. SRK liked the script very much and agreed to be a part of the movie.
Upon its release, ‘Swades’, which was originally titled ‘Desh’, got unprecedented critical response from various quarters. Everyone praised Shah Rukh’s performance and he took home a Filmfare Award and a Global Indian Film Awards under the same Best Actor category. The film is considered one of the best movies from SRK’s filmography. Ashutosh’s direction in the movie was also praised widely. Talking about the box office performance, ‘Swades’ scored well at the ticket window worldwide. Just from the domestic box office, it raked in 152.5 million which is approx. US$2.3 million.
Over the years, ‘Swades’ has attained a cult status among Indian and other South Asian audiences around the world. It is really sad that Hrithik rejected such a brilliant film. We are sure he must have regretted his decision later.
TRIVIA: ‘Swades’ is partially inspired by the life story of Ravikuchimanchi and Aravinda, a couple who returned to India and built a mini reservoir and Pedal power in the village of Bilagaon, Maharashtra.