Yunus Sajawa

Robin Bhatt
Additional Screenplay


Another Take
Chennai Express:Mass entertainer, in bits and pieces

The two best things about Chennai Express are the very first title-cards of the opening and the rolling credits. In the beginning Deepika Padukone’s name appears before Shahrukh Khan’s and at the end the frame reads ‘A film by Rohit Shetty and Team’ - Thumbs up for promoting feminism and comradeship. Now let’s go to the bittersweet part. 

Obviously we suffer a dearth of good children films to which families can also accompany their young ones. Obviously the Indian audience still has a strong fondness for the elements of our age-old Nautanki theatre which has less of conviction and more of farcical attempts at comedy, over simplified narrative and over-the-top singing-dancing-acting etc. Now whether Rohit Shetty knows all this consciously or not, it’s quite the reason he is having a good time in the industry. His latest film is another fine example that he knows his job and his audience who are least demanding. 

Rahul (Shahrukh Khan; who else can have such an onscreen name?) is a 40 year old unmarried guy running his grandfather’s sweet shop. For some dubious reasons the old man never allowed his orphaned grandson to get married so as and when he makes an exit at 99, our hero sets off to Goa with his cousins. His Daadi asks him to take a part of his grandfather’s ashes to Rameswaram which he unwillingly agrees to. He boards the train Chennai Express so that Daadi doesn’t come to know of his ulterior motives and plans to meet his cousins at Kalyan junction. At this moment Meenamma (Deepika Padukone) is introduced and from then on Rahul is stuck with her for the rest of the film. He has to accompany Meenamma to her village where her Don father awaits to marry her off against her will. Many blatantly typecast characters keep on appearing as sequences of chase, dance and action alternate while tied loosely by the glue of Shahrukh’s fading charm. 

Chennai Express is full of inside jokes, references to Shahrukh’s earlier films, parodies and kicking-falling-stumbling acts. Good thing is it’s devoid of any below the belt humor or double meaning punches. Moreover, too many vehicles spin in air (hard to tell if all that’s because of public demand, Shetty’s style or a compulsive disorder), Shahrukh too takes up a good amount of physical thrashing (reminds of his good old Darr and Baazigar days), utensils fall here and there and a stove too catches fire. All that makes up for that so much talked about ‘entertainment value’. 

Like Shahrukh’s last release Ra.One, this film also works best with kids and those who turn to movies to catch some laughter and look at gorgeous heroines. The first half is especially refreshing and a persistent smile sits nicely on your face throughout. The entire train boarding sequence of Deepika is hilarious. 

However, the second half of the film doesn’t let it score a ten on ten. All attempts at constructing a love story fail miserably and the emotional graph falls flat. Since there is no stress (or may be the director lacks the required skills) on making the scenes convincing, you are hardly interested in watching Rahul and Meenamma fall in love. All you wait for is the next gag or a witty punch-line by Shahrukh. Since that does not happen as frequently as it should, there is enough boredom even for all those viewers who made Bol Bachchan a huge hit. 

Shahrukh Khan plays himself using his entire arsenal. He mimics, lifts his arms in his bookish manner, chews his lower lip and exercises eyebrows to portray sadness, and jumps here and there like a real stage-entertainer. But he fails to connect on an emotional level because the script is far away from the authenticity displayed by the storylines of films like DDLJ and Chak De! India. In both these films when Shahrukh says “Main Tumhe Bhaga Ke Nahin Lekar Jaunga Simran” and “70 Minute Hain Tumhare Paas, 70 minute” we watch him with bated breath but in Chennai Express when he advocates more freedom for girls we just want him to do something rather funny. This is where the film fails i.e. the department of storytelling. The dialogues (Farhad-Sajid) sound funny on most occasions because of Shahrukh’s comic timing. Plus Deepika, who looks admirable in traditional south Indian attires, does a decent job delivering her lines with confidence. The story by K. Subhash has no freshness in it. It even does not try to tie the loose ends in the end and leaves us keep guessing if Rahul’s cousins are still waiting for him in Goa or a shark has eaten them. Screenplay (Yunus Sajawal, additional screenplay Robin Bhatt) seems to be written for a 12 year old, given that he or she has no access to smarter TV programs airing on channels like Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. 

The song ‘1234 Get on the Dance Floor’ (Lyrics: Amitabh Bhattacharya, Tamil Lyrics: Niranjan Iyengar) is peppy. Rest of the music is quite forgettable, including the irrelevant ‘Lungi Dance’ song (Lyrics: Honey Singh) in the end. 

Watch it if you can tick all these three conditions: You really admire everything Deepika Padukone does, Shahrukh Khan is still the King of your heart and Rohit Shetty is your dream director. Otherwise, stay away from cinemas this weekend. 

   Dinkar Sharma


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