Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Chennai Express

I had not planned to write a review on Chennai Express, so I just storified some of my tweets and writing some quick thoughts on it. I did not understand what the hullabaloo over its criticism was. It was like any other Rohit Shetty movie, in fact, in many ways better than his other films. I enjoyed it, especially its second half. In the end, they pay a tribute to Thalaiva in Lungi Dance but I felt this movie was a tribute to Shah Rukh Khan himself. The film includes references to all his films — Dilwale Duhaniya Le Jayenge, My Name is Khan, Dil Se, Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman. The message of the film when Rahul says, "Never underestimate the power of the common man", was referring to Shah Rukh himself who has made it in the Hindi film industry on his own, without any godfathers, without any dynastic linkages. It is his struggle that is shown in the film. Also, I was fascinated by his t-shirt that had a picture of Steve McQueen and his motorcycle. Steve McQueen was called as "the king of cool" and "the anti-hero" — words that we can use to describe Shah Rukh perfectly. The growing years, the habits of smoking, the belief in only yourself, the coolness quotient — the parallels between them are amazing. Do read Beth's review in the link below where she talks about this in great detail. She also says that Hum Hai Rahi Pyaar Ke from Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi was another desire of Shah Rukh to get immortalized on screen. In the scene, when he hits the goons with a shovel, it was as if he was making a statement that he too can make a 200 crore movie! No wonder, Shah Rukh went out of his way to make this film do well. 

In terms of performances, Shah Rukh hams in the first half. He was really bad in the train scenes, but once they get down at Meenama's village, we see the Shah Rukh that we love so much — self deprecating, funny, and charming. Deepika just gets better with every film and as I have said before in the Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani post, she is one of the very few actresses who look even more pretty when she cries. She brings grace when she sheds tears. Some gags are strictly okay but singing songs in an antakshari to send the message was a riot, I laughed so loud when Thangaballi also starts singing in the tune of Chammak Chalo song. The love story is so much better and works well for me. I did not like the absolute mindless violence in the end but given that it is a Rohit Shetty film, this was kind of expected. I liked it how they brought humor in the proceedings when his grandfather dies, so I was hoping that something funny would come in the end. Meenama's father doing a Amrish Puri when he leaves her hand to make her go to Rahul did not seem right. A lot of critics have called the film regressive in terms of treatment of Meenama's character. I felt that it was again all men deciding her fate as if she is some kind of object, even Rahul when he returns back to her village without even telling her. In other places, I did not notice this. In fact, Baradwaj Rangan defends her saying that Meenama is actually the hero as Rahul cannot manage even a few hours without her — the place, the language, and the subtitles. So interesting points they make, I so wish I could think this way.

Cinematography is splendid. I am not sure if it is computer generated or not. Rameshwaram is gorgeous, especially the road surrounded by water on both sides with a train passing below — beautiful. The other characters in the village are slightly stereotypical with long hair and knives but again Rangan calls it the least stereotypical of any Hindi film. His review is here

A lot of criticism was given to the fact that there were no subtitles but I felt that was clearly intentional. In the end, Rahul gives a spiel and he says he will speak from his heart and her father will listen from his heart too. If we understand these characters, then we do not need any subtitles. In fact, Chennai Express could be a great film for national integration, the merging of the north and south. Kashmir Main, Tu Kanyakumari is so beautifully choreographed, different dance forms from various parts of India — tribal, Kathakali, Bharat Natyam, and Rajasthani. I loved it.

Kashmir main tu Kanyakumari
North-South ki kat gayi dekho doori hi saari
Kashmir tu main kanyakumari
Fifty-fifty har situation mein hissedari

I do not understand what the criticism was all about. As I have always said, all of us are different. A film that I like, someone else might hate it because we have our sensibilities but disparaging someone just on a choice of a film sounds bizarre to me. I loved Saawariya, others hated it. I did not like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, everyone else loved it. This only proves we are different. Anyway, here are some tweets on Chennai Express.

Dialogue of the Day:
"Ek galat train, Chennai Express, ne mujhe sahi raasta dikha diya."
 Rahul, Chennai Express


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  2. I like how you enjoy lootera, haider, andhi, etc but also have fun watching chennai express. I watched the KJo interview and he said that there is no art house cinema in India. The audience is not thaf much devided here and so true. I enjog CE and have watched it multiple times but at the same time I watch Ugly or Khamoshi or lootera. Mindless comedy or insightful cinema bollywood has it all. Though these big budget movies have become the face of bollywood but Indian cinema is much greater than that and those who genuinely love movies will always love Indiam films.

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