Rating : 3/5
Genre : All-in-one
Year : 2013
Running time : 2 hours 21 minutes
Director : Rohit Shetty
Cast : Shahrukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Satyaraj, Niketan Dheer, Kamini Kaushal, Lekh Tandon
Kid rating : PG
From its trailer Chennai Express appeared to be a masala entertainer. Which it was. The kind of film where you check in your brains at the front door, and expect to be doused in slapstick-y, spoofy humor and a story which doesn’t make much sense. So I went in with fairly low expectations and got exactly what I’d bargained for.
Rahul (Shahrukh) is a 40 year old, an orphan raised by his grandparents. Dadaji (Tandon) has passed away and Dadiji (an aged Kamini Kaushal) wants Rahul to immerse his ashes at Rameshwaram. Rahul has a Goan vacation planned with friends but tells Dadiji that he is heading off to Rameshwaram to do her bidding. When Dadiji comes to bid him goodbye he climbs onto a South-bound train, planning to get off at the next station to join his friends. But he meets Meena (Deepika) on the train. Meena is running away from an arranged marriage. Long story short, Rahul gets caught up in her misadventures.
This film is very, very over the top and very, very spoofy, drowning in references to DDLJ, My Name is Khan and other SRK ventures. You realize that it is a parody, because one over-wrought farcical scene cuts to another affected caricature of a scene. It’s as if the film-makers are laughing at themselves, at us, at Bollywood, but they are laughing all the way to the bank.
There is very little story – Rahul meets Meenamma. They run away, detouring to fall in love. You know what’s coming next. The characters are giant cardboard cutouts, and remain in the spoofy zone. SRK’s Rahul is hamming it up in outlandish situations, and Meena is the spirited Southern siren who isn’t resigned to her fate. The film has its moments but gets kinda boring in the middle, and mired in melodrama and longish Shetty-esque fight/stunt scenes towards the end.
Chennai Express has gaping plot-holes the size of Asia, but I have tolerated this film better than I have trash like Welcome and Golmaal. And that’s because, firstly this is a pretty clean film, as films go these days. There is no overt vulgarity, no sly innuendoes. Yes, there is one incredibly stupid scene with SRK and a dwarf, there is the sexism, and there is the lone item number disguised as a village celebration, but it’s not too bad overall. Secondly, there is the character of Meena, a girl with plenty of guts. She is funny and resourceful and gives as good as she gets. Compare this with, say the character of silly, petulant Kavya Bhosle in Singham, and you have a winner in Meena.
Deepika gives a tremendous performance as Tamilian Meena. She acts and dances like a dream, keeps up the hilarious Southie accent throughout the film, and has the comic thing down pat. Shahrukh is a disappointment here. As he ages, he has started to resemble his wax statue at Madame Tussauds; the glassy stare, the waxy face, the terrible acting. He does his eyebrow wiggle thing and is super-hammy in his portrayal of Rahul.
Chennai Express is 100% masala; I only saw it because I like the lead pair. If this film had had even a semblance of a sensible story, it would have been so much better. Rohit Shetty seems to know what he is doing, because he makes the movie he intends to; Chennai Express doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a commercial potboiler. The problem is that with his unsubtle, sledge-hammer approach to movie-making, Shetty’s best product can only ever reach mediocrity.
Here is a song from Chennai Express. Do watch it carefully; it is a reflection of what the film is like :