Much of “Laal” repeats beats, and even some shots, from Zemeckis’ 1994 film almost verbatim. Laal (as a child, played by Gurfateh Grewal) cathartically runs from bullies, breaking free of the leg braces that he wore throughout childhood. He becomes a sports star in school. He enlists in a war effort, and while training falls in with a socially awkward, obsessive soldier (Naga Chaitanya Akkineni) keen on starting a business after the war. He rescues an injured battlefield foe. Laal becomes successful, meets real-world dignitaries, loses important people in his life, runs across the country for years at a time, and pines constantly for Rupa. All the while, important moments of Indian history are constantly playing on TV in the background, with Laal walking past them without the attention span to absorb them.
A few of the details are different, however. Instead of shrimp, Laal is roped into the undergarment business (the real-life Rupa Underwear, it so happens).
Both Laal and Gump are depicted as mentally disadvantaged, but while Gump’s actual IQ is given on camera (it is 75), Laal — while often called a “dimwit” — is presented more as being on the autism spectrum. He is hyperfocused, has a great capacity developing individual skills, and while lacking a certain social finesse, understands kindness when he sees it. While “Laal” has no interest in exploring the fineries of life on the spectrum, it does appear to be mercifully free of trite “Gump” savant clichés.