First published 17 December 2013, updated for #10YearsofSwades on 17 December 2014.
On 17 December 2014, we celebrate #10YearsofSWADES. Released in 2004, the Ashutosh Gowariker film Swades: We, The People was a unique film for the audience as well as its star, Shah Rukh Khan. When fans celebrated #9Yearsof SWADES last year, he tweeted about the experience:
Making Swades was such an emotionally overwhelming experience that I never saw the finished product. Didn't want the feeling to end....— SHAH RUKH KHAN (@iamsrk) December 17, 2013
Thank you Ashutosh...go changing my life. Gayatri...Kaveri amma REHMAN and Javed sahib.— SHAH RUKH KHAN (@iamsrk) December 17, 2013
Thank you Ashutosh for changing my life. Gayatri, REHMAN & Javed sahib...for helping calling 'a Swades a Swades'. Respect.— SHAH RUKH KHAN (@iamsrk) December 17, 2013
The greatest way for an actor to count his years is, for each of them to be defined by a film. DDLJ yr...Swades yr...KKHH yr...& so on....— SHAH RUKH KHAN (@iamsrk) December 17, 2013
One of the most interesting aspects of this film was the contrast between different ways of life - taking us from the high-tech world of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to Charanpur, a village in India at the crossroads of development.
In the film, Mohan Bhargava (Shah Rukh Khan) works on the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission. The GPM is an international network of satellites that provide global observations of rain and snow so we can better understand the global water cycle.
This mission was initiated by NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) as a follow-up to the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM). The GPM mission leverages the expertise of a consortium of international space agencies, including the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), and others.
During a press conference about the GPM at the beginning of the Swades, Mohan Bhargava is asked by a reporter, "Is this budget justified?" Bhargava responds:
"Globally, there is a danger of water recession in the near future. It will not be unreal to imagine that in the 21st century, cities like Beijing, Amman, New Delhi, Santiago, Jakarta, Mexico City, Lima, and many others, will drink up, us up their surrounding waters and perish. Water is going to be rare. Is it not a reason enough to justify any budget?"
In 2013, World Resources Institute released maps highlighting the stress on water resources, by country, throughout the world. Researchers found that 37 countries face "extremely high" levels of baseline water stress. This means that more than 80 percent of the water available to agricultural, domestic, and industrial users is withdrawn annually - leaving businesses, farms, and communities vulnerable to scarcity.
At the time of the film Swades, the GPM was scheduled to launch in 2007, but due to a number of factors, the launch was postponed several years. In 2013, the GPM was delivered to Japan for final testing and eventual launch in early 2014. Michael Starobin went along on the trip and highlighted some of the challenges of building a satellite:
...building and launching satellites turns out to be exceedingly complicated things to do. They’re highly complex machines, requiring profoundly precise levels of craftsmanship, not to mention extraordinary inventiveness. Armies of specialists work closely with supremely skilled designers and mission planners for years to build typical satellites. Most people involved have expensive educations under the belts, and intense, serious years of work proving their mettles while they move up the ranks.
Satellites need money, too - lots and lots. Rockets are expensive; the satellites themselves are expensive; ground operations are expensive.
All of this means huge crowds of people, and in any huge crowd of people you’re going to have differences. People bring different backgrounds, different experiences, different points of view. They disagree; they fall in love; they cause trouble; they stand atop metaphoric mountaintops waving flags like heroes.
Sometimes they sing together, no matter what stripe they wear on their sleeve.
In the small Japanese town of Minimitane on the island of Tanegashima, a small army of NASA engineers worked together in late 2013 to complete the final phases of construction for one of the most sophisticated Earth observing satellites every built. The satellite is called GPM, for Global Precipitation Measurement, and it’s been years in the planning between NASA and the Japanese space agency JAXA.
To add authenticity to the film, Gowariker chose to shoot the final scenes of Swades at NASA's Launch Pad 39A complex at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is where the massive Saturn V rockets blasted off to the moon in the late 60s and early 70s.
Following the success of his 2001 film Lagaan, Gowariker had become a well-known director in the U.S. He explained, "There are so many Indians working at NASA who went out of their way to help us shoot there."
In a May 2004 story, NASA described the scene:
Gowariker is directing at Launch Pad 39A, where a strong wind blows in from the Atlantic, making life difficult for the hair and makeup crew. Dozens of important looking people with clipboards and headsets run around making sure everything's just right and that Shah Rukh Khan, the film's lead actor and one of India's biggest stars, has plenty of water and shade as the Florida summer kicks in.
... "NASA stands for the highest level of technological exploration, and everything modern," explains Gowariker. "I wanted to juxtapose that level of technology and innovation, as opposed to the very fundamental and basic life that we [in India] are leading."
Shah Rukh Khan described his experience shooting in Florida: "I have made so many new friends at the NASA centre. They were extremely cooperative and I thoroughly enjoyed shooting there."
While not considered a great box office success in India initially, Swades received numerous awards, including: Filmfare Award for Best Actor (Shah Rukh Khan), Filmfare Award for Best Background Score (A.R. Rahman), and National Film Award for Best Cinematography (Mahesh Aney). The film was considered a semi-hit in overseas markets and was chosen as India's official entry for the Oscar awards.
Here is the official trailer for Swades:
Global Precipitation Measurement Mission Update
On February 27, 2014, the Global Precipitation Measurement Mission was finally launched.
Hindustan Times: Shah Rukh Khan's Swades project launched by NASA (5 March 2014)
Read NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Mission Status Updates (GPM launched on 27 February 2014). According to NASA: "To better understand Earth's weather and climate cycles, the GPM Core Observatory will collect information that unifies and improves data from an international constellation of existing and future satellites by mapping global precipitation every three hours." For updates on Twitter, follow @NASA_Rain.
Thanks to the GPM, the most accurate and comprehensive collection of rain, snowfall and other types of precipitation data ever assembled has been made available to the public. You can find out more via NASA's website and by searching @NASA #GPM on Twitter.
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