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Sunday, 11 August 2013

Chennai Express (ed)!!...Critics or Cynics??!!

My "to-blog" list is already running into several pages, but what has shaken me from the typo-hibernation is something so unexpected (and some may term it unblog-worthy) that even I am taken aback!

My close friends know that I am no fan of actor Shakrukh Khan's films. The ones that I have actually watched throughout can be counted on two fingers of one hand (Swades and Chake De!).

However, I was blown away by Chennai Express. What has surprised me is to see the flak it is receiving from film critics.

From the Times of India (which is normally always generous, making me wonder there's more to their generosity than appears to be the case), to Indian Express (no surprises there, it reserves going ga-ga over most films) to the Hindustan Times...all have more or less panned the film.

What's wrong with these people??!!

A completely clean, lighthearted film, full of puns (not those with a double meaning), performed earnestly by the actors, portrayed honestly by the director, loads of laughs, stunning locales, a beautifully uncomplicated world, and people are not happy??

For those who have not watched the film, Shahrukh plays a "halwai" on his way to Goa, with his grandfather's ashes. His plans undergo a drastic change when he helps Deepika, the daughter of a don from the west coast region of South India (Komban, in the film) , catch the Chennai Express. The problem gets aggravated due to Sharukh not knowing any Tamil, and Deepika's family not knowing Hindi.

I was hooked from the moment Rahul (Shahrukh), after helping Meenamma (Deepika) on to the Chennai Express, helps on one, then another, and then another fierce (and dare I say far, very far, very very far from beautiful)looking character onto the already chugging train....I mean, the comparison was so hilarious that I have just to think of his expression and howl with laughter as he spots each one, and nevertheless helps them on!

The conversation via song scenes between Shahrukh and Deepika had me rolling in my seat too. Especially when he uninhibitedly sings a love song to her in Hindi, never imagining that she will understand it, leave alone reply back, in song! Both Shahrukh and Deepika are similarly shocked later in the film when they both think they have hoodwinked the villain by communicating through Hindi songs to each other, when, to their surprise, the villain and his entire support party break into song and dance, in Hindi!!

There are several other small nuggets in the film, e.g., when he is caught on a boat smuggling oil to Sri Lanka, (that in itself is pricelessly imaginative!), the smugglers claim him as one of their own to escape the coastal patrol, and tell him "All is well", then, a split second later (like how a light bulb goes on in a comic over the head of a character), change it to "Oil is well!"

Shahrukh is the leading man, and yet he got away with being endearingly ordinary in most of the film. He was surrounded by people taller (including Deepika!) and heftier than him, but he behaved as a "halwai" or any other regular guy would have in the situation: run away, most of the time!!

I saw many others in the hall clapping and singing along with the songs, especially the children. The little girl next to me ( not more than four or five years old) was happily dancing..:)! Vishal-Shekhar have done a superb job. The picturisation of the Kashmir Main Tu Kanyakumari reminded one of a grand opulent musical,  with people in coulourful costumes, and dancing merrily and happily. The beat of the song is exactly like that of a chugging train, and the locale (Munnar or Coorg, it doesn't matter) was breathtaking.

Deepika looked stunning and suited the role superbly. The titli song was aptly soft and captured her emotions beautifully. To me, her acting seemed natural and her accent did not jar. She looked adorable in her "pavada" and her Kerala saree!

Some newspaper mentioned that Shahrukh had used the movie to crow about his other movies. The writer of that piece needs a special lesson in spoofs (maybe he/she's never even heard the word!).

The allusions in Chennai Express to his earlier films were completely in the lighter vein (like when he bursts into a Tamil song which are the opening lines of the song Dil Se, from the same film, and everyone around is shocked!! To them he excplains that when he sings from the heart--Dil se--these lines come out automatically!)

Then there was the scene when Deepika says she thinks he's fifty! Shahrukh's expression on hearing this is priceless! He has laughed at himself in the movie more than anyone else, which should always be appreciated in a person. He's growing up and growing older, and maybe, wiser! Whatever the reason, barring the trademark hands spreading mannerism, he was very much controlled in his performance throughout the film

There was everything in the film that one has now learnt to expect from a Rohit Shetty movie, namely, comical situations, Goa (the Doodhsagar falls were passed off as somewhere further south), tonnes of one liners, amazing cinematography, and hummable peppy music. The only time I felt the director could have reigned it in was the end, which was so gory that it quietened the little dancing girl next to me.

However, the lungi song at the end made up for it. Without denigrating the superstar Rajnikanth, it made sure that although we had stood up to leave, we waited for it to end to walk out of the theatre!

The one reason people may be criticising the movie is because the jokes are so many and come so quickly and unexpectedly that they are over too soon for most. Which is a hundred times better than the crass and crude in-your-face jokes of films like No Entry, etc. And maybe that is why they should see it again! (And, no, SRK or Rohit Shetty have not paid me to write this!!)

Suddenly, I saw what Shahrukh Khan had been saying all these years in interviews, that he makes movies that he can watch with his kids, and I'm sure he'll watch this over and over again, cos one can't get it all in one go.

In fact, I'm going to catch it once more, something I don't remember ever having done before!!

With our politicians presenting farces every other day, and financial and climate gurus claiming doom every day, Chennai Express offers a journey to a safe, fresh and welcoming world....!!

So, I'm going to get on the train baby, a second time!