* * ½
Shahrukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Niketan Dheer, Kamini Kaushal
Masala Mix turned bland!
For a nation known for its cultural, linguistic and all sorts of diversity, Bollywood has seldom explored the phenomenon for cinematic purposes. In that respect, Chennai Express (CE) can be called path breaking. But sadly, in every other way, it is as run of the mill as it could be. Even that would have been passable with a smart screenplay comprising of entertaining moments, but they are few and in spurts. At its core, CE is a typical Bollywood rom-com mish-mashed with the recent action comedies, some being the director’s own.
So, we have the 40 year old (virgin?) Rahul (surprise!) who accidently (in DDLJ style ) gets stuck in the Chennai bound train with Meenamma (Deepika) and her Dad’s goons who are out to take her back to her village down the Vindhyas, to be married to Thanghabali (Niketan Dheer). Thereafter the story follows the predictable path of the boy (?) and girl falling in love and the boy winning over the girl’s family, after some comedy, action and family drama. Only difference being instead of the regular Punjabi family and bhangra numbers, we have the Tamilian family, talking in incomprehensible language, dance numbers with tamil flavor, and goons with coconut instead of sugarcanes. This does bring an interesting premise to the film. Almost half of the film’s dialogues are in tamil without sub titles. But that works, for it creates the feeling of being lost along with the male protagonist and we empathize with him. The entire new world which he lands himself into and the cultural bewilderment he feels, is as much felt by him as much as by the audience. This says a lot about the director’s skill. Some romantic moments are also trademark SRK and are sure to win over the loyalists.
But that’s the only good part. The jokes are mostly lame and trying too hard to be funny, with characters trying so hard that it shows. Though the director has steered clear from stereotyping the Tamilians, a certain lack of detailing shows, though that could be due to the general nature of such movies. More disappointing are the forced action scenes. Rohit Shetty’s flying cars fetish is known (and probably admired), but it certainly needs an Ajay Devgan or Sanjay Dutt to pull off with aplomb. SRK is no match to them when it comes to such scenes, though no doubt he excels in the romantic scenes. Also, he hams terribly in the comic scenes, and especially the climax, which turns ridiculous bordering on preachy. The authenticity of deepika’s accent might be debatable, but the consistency and cuteness is definitely not. She excels as the fiery Meenamma, and is totally natural playing a tamilian.
The action sequences look as if lifted from some 90s movie, and even the songs are not of usual SRK movie stuff. The festive season might pull this express through, but board on it only for Deepika and to experience some Southern sojourn.