Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chennai Express - Movie Review

Been a long time since a movie was seen at the 10 a.m. show. But I saw the huge hit that Rohit Shetty made with Shahrukh Khan and Deepika Padukone in a theatre that had about 20 people including Shobhs and me. Not many takers for the early morning shows I guess.

I saw some reviews ripping this movie to shreds. Ratings of 1 star on 5 and so on. Then I heard rave reviews from those who found it extremely funny - I did not - there are jokes but not one that made me want to laugh out loud. The movie actually falls somewhere in between. It's a 2.5 from me. I think I also tend to enjoy movies a bit more when the reviewers tear them up to pieces - the expectations are nil.

First up, it's a Rohit Shetty film, so one better gear up for that. One can see his trademark stuff. The script is not great but I don't think you go to his films to watch great scripts. You go to get some song, some dance, some laughs, some fights and some big action sequences - the whole package as they call it. You are also prepared for some big cinematic leaps and do not question some gaps because it's not supposed to be serious cinema. It's entertainment. Not necessarily intelligent.

So we have YY Mithaiwala's 40 year old grandson Rahul, a simple idiot to start with but one who grows into a bad guy with a golden heart or a good guy with a stone heart or something like that, going to Rameswaram to immerse his grandfather's ashes. But Rahul is a 40 year old with a 20 year old heart, maturity and sense of responsibility, and instead decides to go to Goa and immerse the ashes there so they land up at Rameswaram anyway. Situations so conspire that he has to get on the Chennai Express to fool his grandmother, who is not fooled anyway, with the plan of getting off at Kalyan and meeting his friends to drive on to Goa.

But Rahul is rather a dimwit and lends a helping hand to five people who are trying to board the running train - four of them who weigh upwards of 100 kilos certainly and one dainty Deepika. With no platform left to alight after his philanthropic deeds Rahul finds out soon enough that the girl is being kidnapped by her cousin brothers, cohorts of her mafia don father. They are currently taking her to Komban, her village to get her married to another mafia don's son. Get the picture? Rahul cannot speak or understand Tamil, Meena can speak and understand both Hindi, Tamil, Marathi though in her own weird manner and most of the Tamil crew cannot speak nor understand Hindi. So the two talk to one another in Hindi through songs. Why songs? The others cannot understand Hindi anyway right? But that's how dimwitted it can get at one level. Anyway girl tells everyone that she and Rahul love one another which is why she cannot marry the gigantic son that her father has chosen for her. After much running around and many more corny jokes, the movie gets to its logical end.

The pluses first. It's not as bad as it's made out to be. The locations are brilliant. Deepika is superb and makes Meena's character stand out with her accent and all. There is one scene when she tells Rahul that she is going to Rameswaram with him to save him from her people, where she brings in a touch of genuine cinematic magic - you actually feel like leaning over and giving her a hug. Way to go girl! Shahrukh is fine though he is a confused character - he is more like himself when he hosts those film functions - full of juvenile humour, self-deprecating at times, though he is funnier in the film functions. The big plus is that there are no real parts where you want to get up and move, which is what many movies can do to you. Rohit ends the movie well in a predictable ending.

The minuses then. Shahrukh's character could have been a lot more defined. It's almost as if someone thoguht that by just walking on to the set and mouthing his funny dialogues, the character would stick. Rahul's character is weak and is a caricature of all of Shahrukh's old characters - from DDLJ to My Name is Khan to Dil Se to whatever, he is having a private joke. But what is he really, this halwai, this supposed common man with a slightly misplaced sense of humour ?What are his convictions, what are his dreams, what does he think of himself? Left with no real spine in the character, Shahrukh does a bit of everything, jokes through scenes even when there is no need and gets serious in scenes where he need not. Finally it looks almost as if a caricature is out there in the middle of some real characters. Some work on his character could have improved the main hero's credibility so much more and added greater depth and connect to the story. Could the Tamils have been shown in a slightly better light, with some sense of humour too or even as people with some more dimensions? Perhaps. I did not really find the jokes awfully funny and just sat through them - my laugh-o-meter was at half. I cowered a few times in sheer embarrassment which is a new (a couple of them I should mention - one when Shahrukh nods his head in an embarrassed admittance of his love to Deepika in the end, just as a naughty schoolboy would do, please SRK shed that sir, and another when the gigantic chap starts singing in addition to their awful singing.).

But Chennai Express zooms on with all its faults and foibles and entertains non-stop in a rather odd manner where you are left feeling rather inadequate, that something is not fully right, that something better could have been done with a little bit of application, a little bit of better storytelling. You wonder why the jokes are rather juvenile and why an intelligent man like Shahrukh wishes to portray himself in such a half-baked role. You wait for it to rise above the ordinary, for something to happen and it does not. Then you fear a bit for the sense of humour of our audiences, for the intelligence of our audiences. Why are our 100 crore films like this?

The last scene when Shahrukh finally wins over his girl was best left without any dialogue to take it to another level, so intense was it all, but then we had to have several corny jokes in those dialogues again. It's a bit like that but then we are not looking at perfection. Like I said, a 2.5 from me on a scale of 5.

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