Julie M: OK…This was a special Filmi-Goris x 4 outing, with the much-storied Pat and Kathy joining Jenny and Julie IN PERSON for the opening weekend of Shah Rukh Khan’s latest, Chennai Express (2013).
In short: if you are a die-hard SRK fan this is something you will definitely enjoy. If you aren’t…well…
Jenny K: You can’t say you haven’t been warned.
Julie M: Plot summary: Rahul (SRK) is a 40-year-old working in his grandfather’s Mumbai sweet shop, the grandfather who raised him after his parents died when he was a young boy. He’s not been allowed to go out on his own or get married, and he is the apple of Grandpa’s eye, so he’s been in a sort of prolonged adolescence his whole adult life. In fact, he and his two boyhood buddies are planning a secret bro’s vacation to Goa to scope out the lay-deez when Grandfather suddenly passes away. Grandmother tasks Rahul with taking the ashes ALL the way to southeast India–to G’pa’s ancestral village, it seems–in the exact opposite direction from Goa. He and the gang hatch an alternative plan that involves throwing Grandma off the trail by SEEMING to board a southward train–the Chennai Express–while in reality escaping at the next station to turn right around and go beachward.
Well, life throws Rahul a curve and he ends up “rescuing” Meena (Deepika Padukone), a Tamil don’s daughter, who is being dragged back to Daddy after escaping a forced engagement, only to find himself also dragged southward with her and her captors. Escape is impossible, as is Meena, so Rahul has only his charm and his wits (both in short supply) to try and get himself out of a number of scrapes, including a looming fight to the death with the seriously large dude Meena is engaged to, all the while accompanied by a very large urn containing Grandpa’s mortal remains.
This is one slapstick film complete with mud-dunkings, comic car chases and misunderstandings arising from language barriers. SRK mugs his way through situation after situation with his trademark babble-banter that to me seemed to work better when he was younger, all the while somehow making the girl fall in love with him. Too slapstick for me in the first half; luckily the 2nd half finds Rahul eating some hero pills offstage and finally sacking up.
Jenny K: Mud-dunkings and comic car chases are director Rohit Shetty’s oeuvre, as I understand it (Golmaal…need I say more?). Should we expect it to make sense?
Kathy K: Yes, the plot is ridiculous and its 30 minutes too long (especially when they are beating SRK to a pulp), but as a die-hard SRK fan, he once again saved the show for me.
Pat B: I have to go with Julie on this one. There were a few humorous moments like when Meena makes the comment about Rahul being fifty (the look on his face was worth it)
Jenny K: She actually said “having no mother for fifty years” right after he had said she died when he was eight…so I don’t blame him for looking aghast when she was saying he must be fifty-EIGHT! It was funny.
Pat B: And the DDLJ music playing while she is running for the train (and then the others running for the train)…I smiled and chuckled. But, the other overdone mugging stuff made me uncomfortable and I felt it was done for lack of a better script and more clever scenes.
Julie M: SRK was my least favorite part of the film; but there was plenty of other stuff to like. The scenery, for example, was fabulous. The two big dance numbers showcase all that is fun about Bollywood from about 10-15 years ago, particularly this one.
Pat B: Oddly, I wasn’t that taken by the big dance scenes. I liked the old style grandeur of them, but I just was less than impressed by the dance choreography. The one scene I did fall for was the beautiful romantic scene with the song, “Titli”, between the lovers. Stunning! (The one where Kathy tapped me on the shoulder and nodded her head….yeah, Shah Rukh was totally gorgeous in that scene).
Jenny K: You probably like “Titli” better because Farah Khan choreographed it, and it’s more Bolly-Traditional. The “1-2-3-4 (Booty Shake)” number [at the bottom of the post] is Kolly-Traditonal, the whole way — from the item girl, Priyamani (who I thought was fabulous!) to the choreographer, Raju Sundaram, who is Prabhu Deva’s brother.
The cinematography was really lush, I was especially seduced by the vistas at the top of the temple stairs in the scene right before Pat’s song begins (nice scene, acting-wise, as well) and the scenes of the tea plantations, almost as lovingly shot as in last month’s Paradesi. Despite the “Kashmir” title of Julie’s song, I’d bet they were the same fields in Paradesi, which were supposed to be in Tamil Nadu…if anyone bothered to report on locations. Bother.
But just like cotton candy, this movie has faded from my consciousness along with its fairly shallow sweetness. Nothing too offensive about it, except some of SRK’s wardrobe (what is it with all those spray painted waistcoats in the final number?!? Yuck!), yet nothing too memorable.
Pat B: Gone for me too, Jenny, except that one beautiful song and scene. I am so happy I saw that on the big screen. And the lushness does make me want to go to South India…great travel promo.
Kathy K: What would have completed this vintage trip down masala lane would have been one or two more full songs. Have you noticed how the new movies are getting away from these? Sigh. The film had a good item number, but the other songs could have been placed better. It seemed end-loaded with dance numbers.
Julie M: I didn’t even mind the now-obligatory rap song over the ending credits.
I also liked a running gag wherein the two leads must communicate in Hindi through song to throw off the bad guys, who only spoke Tamil, allowed the audience to have fun recognizing classic Bollywood tunes. And I was impressed with Deepika Padukone, despite her casting as the typical feisty love interest that might have been played by Kajol back in the day, actually showed some acting talent.
Jenny K: I agree. I think Deepika has matured in her performances quite a bit. Shah Rukh was charming in the second half but the first half’s humor, as I expected, was too broad for me and had a slightly annoying aftertaste to all of it. While I laughed at the “Now you have annoyed me so much that I have to go sit down” bits, when they kept repeating, I found myself thinking that this stuttering buffoon before me was an incarnation that Shah Rukh had left behind him long ago. Why did he feel the need to revisit it?
Julie M: I did not hate it and found plenty to like, but the ending and the EXCRUCIATINGLY LONG AND BLOODY fight scene ruined all my goodwill for this film. Plus, I found the ending full of mixed messages. “Give your daughters agency, but let me have her only after I’ve successfully fought for her.” WTF? It would have made much more sense if Rahul had foregone the “we’re modern now” speech, fought the big scary dude for his own reasons [self-respect, etc.], won, and then said “By the way, Dad, I shouldn’t have had to do this to win your daughter if I was who she wanted all along.” I also feel that they did not sufficiently set up Rahul as an arrested-adolescent early in the film, which would have made the 2nd half make WAY more sense narratively (stepping up to be the next generation of manliness once Grandpa has died).
Pat B: I think it was a bad redo of the end of DDLJ.
Jenny K: But, as Pat would agree, half the enjoyment of the film was getting the audience to reference old SRK nostalgic classics like DDLJ in the first place (his last line of the movie before the credits was that title, wasn’t it?). But I go along with consensus that the end fight could have been shortened or skipped altogether…I know the guys like that sort of thing, but I really felt that I’d seen it all before, substituting sticks for shovels. Check that scene out and see what I mean.
Plus, cinematically, there were some very odd effects. Perhaps it’s just loaded with Tamil film references that I don’t know yet…like the credit song’s homage to Rajinikanth. I mean, those multiple shots of our hero from the feet up, as he is walking on glass…look awfully similar to this one, yes? Look at 1:00 and 1:20. All that slo-mo circular pan on RK, with him frozen in mid kick, just makes me wonder if his martial arts are, shall we say, augmented, a good percent of the time. Sacreligious, I know…
Julie M: I did like the “walking on glass” bit. It was so contrived and in such an obvious way that it tickled me, because they knew they were working with a trope.
So, all in all, it all added up to a meh-plus for me. Not something to search out, particularly, but fun if you have the opportunity. Wait for the DVD version; a big screen is not necessary for this one.
Kathy K: On a final note, just go to relax and listen to the wonderful audience laugh at the inside language, jokes and applaud when SRK comes on screen.
Pat B: It gave me great dreams that night. Move over, Gauri.
Kathy K: Of course, there are his eyes, lashes, nose, lips…… Ouch! Jenny just slapped me!
Jenny K: Sorry…sometimes drastic measures are necessary.
When we began this, I thought we were all grown women….but, I guess, Shah Rukh can make women of all ages forget for a while.
By the way, don’t click the video if you don’t want to be singing the chorus for the next week.