CineMBA – Communication Skills Lessons From ‘Swades’

CineMBA is a series where InsideIIM and Professors from Top Business Schools endeavor to make learning fun and interesting instead of dull and boring. In this video, Dr. Seema Khanvilkar from MISB Bocconi presents the lessons in communication skills like never before. She describes these lessons with the help of 2004 movie, Swades.



Swades is a story about how an NRI (who comes to India to find his nanny) comes face to face with harsh realities of the Rural India. He clearly is out of his comfort zone and he finds it difficult to cope up in the unfamiliar environment. But he uses his skills in communication to bridge the gap between his old and new world.

In the video, the professor uses different scenes as references to explain the different learnings in communication skills.

  1. Use the Recipient’s Frame of Reference to Convey the Message Effectively: In the scene where Mohan wants to explain the concept of the internet to the postman, he uses the latter’s frame of reference to simplify the concept and make it understandable.
  2. In an Unfamiliar Environment, get Local Allies to Support You: In order to convince the people in the village – both high caste and lower caste, to get their kids enrolled in the local school, he forges alliances with the postman and a local dhabba owner. With them by his side, Mohan realizes that he can get the message across far more effectively.
  3. Use the skills that you have to benefit the cause that others have: It’s important that the skills that you have are put to use in a situation which will benefit others. For instance, in the scene where there is power cut while watching the movie, he makes the villagers see the constellations that they would relate to rather than showing off the fancy constellations which they would have no interest in.
  4. Use the Language and Vocabulary that your Recipient Understands and Relates to: As in the movie, Mohan picks up words like ‘Swabhimaan’ and ‘Atmanirbharta’ from his nanny and Geeta and uses them at appropriate junctures to make his point. He does this to be understood by everyone in the village.
  5. Your Body Language should always Support what you’re Saying: The key to effective communication is not only excellent oral communication but also body language that compliments what is being said. In the scenes when Mohan is communicating constantly with 100 men to build the power line, his passion, willingness, body language all compliment the message that he is trying to get across.
  6. Keep an Open Mind for an Effective Two-Way Communication Process: Initially, Mohan is quick to disregard any idealistic views that Geeta had. But as the story progresses, we can see a shift in Mohan’s viewpoint – from cynicism to constructive criticism. This kind of evolving viewpoints is the result of having an open mind during a conversation.

Lastly, the best communication style is the one that comes straight from the heart.


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