The film has no pretensions of a great premise nor does it promise anything remotely. Just have a good laugh watching Chennai Express
So ‘Chennai Express’ chugs on, breaking box-office records and filling the coffers of its producers. Rohit Shetty, like Manmohan Desai feels if his film is panned by critics the public are bound to love it. A self-confessed fan of South Indian pot-boilers, this is Shetty’s humble hallelujah, a South film made in the North and with a tribute to Rajnikanth, the film becomes universal. Forget bits and pieces there’s an entire sequence from Mahesh Babu’s ‘Pokiri’. It may be in the garb of a spoof but you must remember that only the loudest of our hits are remade. It’s a ‘Singham’ that works there not ‘Sadma’. Even a sensitive filmmaker like Priyadarshan had to leave his brains at home to give David Dhawan a run for his money.
Always wary of Bollywood films, especially those starring the Khan troika (yes, even Aamir whose choice of films is good but highly over-rated as an actor) I slunk into a multiplex and was pleasantly surprised by the sizable attendance even after one month. The film, written by K.Subhash the film is unapologetic. Is it an entertainer? Well, I as a critic was in a quandary. I was laughing out loud but was wondering if by doing so I was demeaning my profession. Should my demeanour be grumpy and weigh if it’s an intelligent joke before laughing? Laughter is the most instinctive of emotions and believe me, the most difficult to elicit especially by filmmakers. The film has no pretensions of a great premise nor does it promise anything remotely cerebral for a plot. In fact the film seems to have been written in a mood where if the writer thought a critic might like a scene it’s immediately deleted.
Directing a superstar is definitely not a walk in the park. The humungous expectations of insatiable fans directly translate into box-office returns which can give any director nightmares. ‘Chennai Express’ is a clever film. Like ‘Ek Duuje Ke Liye’ it seeks universal appeal. Rohit digs into his huge bag of tricks and along with the King Khan of kitsch, he delivers something that’s digestible if not delicious. The best thing about the film is that it did not annoy someone like me who’s sensitive to the portrayal of South Indians in Hindi films. I found Deepikas accent amusing and like all ‘Madrasis’ portrayed since Mehmood can neither speak Hindi nor Tamil right. The comedy mostly involving the protagonists is innocuous sans linguistic or sartorial jibes. At least the fun is not offensive. There are no nauseating jokes about flatulence, flab or the female form. Yes, the bad guys are swarthy, dark and unkempt but we are also shown to be large-hearted, hospitable and mostly humble -- not that we’re seeking a character certificate. In fact, there’s an idyllic, seaside town which seems to have a comfortable house just to host eloping couples. Nearly half the film is in Tamil and thankfully there’s no unnecessary translation. We can understand Hindi but I wonder why there’re no subtitles for the Northies who are at sea with ‘Madrasi’!
Shahrukh Khan, as usual hams outrageously, straining every sinew in his control, but his character is endearingly self deprecatory. Rarely does a superstar take digs at himself. Strangely it reminded me of the kind of characters Woody Allen plays. Rohit does develop cold feet as the end nears, and is desperate to give this normal hero some muscle. The stakes are too high. Deepika has a ball. There’s a comfortable chemistry that she shares with Shahrukh onscreen that adds to her performance. She’s delightful in the scene where she has to act possessed.
This is one pleasant train journey. Sit through if you like it or you can always alight at the next station.