Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Sathyaraj, Manorama, Kamini Kaushal, Lekh Tandon, Priyamani
Directed by Rohit Shetty
Looking for deeper meaning or cinematic profundity in a Rohit Shetty film is like searching hard for poverty in a Karan Johar flick or double entendres in the recently released and much-admired The Ship of Theseus. So Chennai Express turns out to be exactly what it was meant to be: a Shetty film with a touch of Shahrukh Khan. It calls for no cinematic celebration, nor does it leave you with any major complaints and grievances.
Rahul returns. Admittedly older at 40 years but still with a backpack slung on his shoulder and a train journey ahead of him in which he will discover the love of his life. SRK starts a trifle hemmed and subdued in a typically garish, comic-book and hitherto unfamiliar (to him) Shetty set. Things warm up gradually.
There’s a scene in where he yells “mummy” when, all of a sudden, he finds himself next to the villain. It had me chuckling. As did a few other self-deprecating moments. There are some genuine laughs when SRK spoofs himself and his own movies. Lines like “naam to nahin suna hoga”, “my name is Rahul and I am not a terrorist”. Or when he pulls the heroine inside the train a la DDLJ, and several other passengers too, capping it with “maine pehle bhi aisa kiya hua hai”. From Life of Pi to Singham, Shahrukh sends up many other films too. It’s this unadulterated, unapologetic madness that works. But never quite manages to get as sublimely silly as say a Baadshah. Primarily because the film wants to amalgamate other SRK personae as well—from the king of romance to the shameless peddler of Nokia and Airtel (like the “jo tera hai wo mera hai” moment). The result: a step ahead of Ra.One and Jab Tak Hai Jaan but a rousing Chak De India and a fun Om Shanti Om would be preferable any day.
There are interesting things SRK does here. Like how he amazingly allows himself to look small, puny literally. Forget the giant of a villain who he tells, “you are so tall, I am so small”, even the heroine towers over him. “Main to strong hoon hi nahin,” he admits. In the more emotional, romantic moments it’s the heroine who becomes the centre while he takes a backseat to her. He gets thrashed badly and doesn’t “win” the fights as any hero conventionally would to win the woman’s heart. But he still remains a star.
Most interesting is how the north-south divide, or rather the effort to bridge it, gets a lot more intricate in Chennai Express than it would seem on the surface. Yes, there are the geographical jumps and fake accents. But there’s no effort to dub or subtitle the Tamil portions for the north. Either you take it or leave it.
Another Indian film that reeks of negative male stereotyping
The film is time pass only. Anyone looking for a story line should not even bother. Fake tamil accent was the most jarring element for me .Deepika is a saving grace so why could they have not taken a little more effort for what is a focal point of the narration is beyond me. I anyway do not like SRK's over acting even normally If you do and still want to watch it ,please keep your brains at home.
"Chennai Express" is one of the silliest movies I have seen this year. Shah Rukh Khan reprises Jerry Lewis for most of the movie. Deepika Padukone is quite shapely. Good cinematography and location scenes, especially of spectacular waterfalls near a railway station. Stupid story and inane dialogue.
Shah Rukh Khan requested Rajinikanth to make guest appearance in "Ra-One" as Chitti, but chose to insult/denigrate him (observe closely the said scene and you'll know what I'm talking about). And the movie tanked big time.
In "Chennai Express" SRK, perhaps realizing his mistake, chose to pay obeisance to Rajini with a song dedicated to the Superstar, and the movie has already grossed Rs. 181 crore and is still counting.
First things first. I am an Outlook subscriber and absolutely love the magazine. Also am a cinema lover and hence the very first thing I read is your column and must say I like your critique and it identifies with what I feel about a film. Of course I don't get to see al movies unlike you!
On CE, I endorse your views which is mostly positive despite the two star rating. I feel it perhaps deserved another one for the foot tapping music - you didn't comment here, the picturisation of the songs and the overall entertainment quotient the film offered. It's not crass unlike previous Rohit shetty films which I understand being an SRK film, it can't reall be considering the butt of the joke mostly is women which SRK is well documented to uphold their respect. In fact I had two great takeaways from the film which was amazing considering it's a masala film. A. The best way to face your problems is to face them and B. The women still have not much reason to celebrate independence even in India's 66th year of independence. I think we must give it to mass appeal films if somewhere somehow they package social messages. The reach and effect is far greater than films totally centered around social themes that despite being great cannot really affect societal thinking positively owing to the sheer lack of reach. I think SRK is in great form and Deepika too is fast maturing as one of the best actresses at least for this year besides being the most commercially successful too. Thanks for capturing the underline of the north south divide that the film has been successful in bridging I would say and not relegate to the clique boundaries. Loved the fact it had no subtitles and this was of course conscious as the little scene with the dwarf man which was yet again underlining the fact that language is not the be all. In a country like ours, these are strong messages that will help shape the much needed change in the psyche of the younger generation majority of whom still grow in highly conditioned environments.
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