I love Shahrukh Khan's schmaltz and I have a growing admiration for how skillfully Deepika Padukone negotiates the trappings of Bollywood heroine-giri these days. But I have to confess I have a noteworthy aversion to uber-director Rohit Shetty's movies. It's a well earned aversion too. I've attempted to see almost all of Rohit's super hit movies. I gagged through the (were there eight or nine?!) Golmaals. I rolled my eyes incessantly in Singham. I shook my head and walked off after 20 minutes of Bol Bachchan.
Now I know all the critics savaged Chennai Express and called it bhula-buraa. I have no idea what they were smoking! Chennai Express is so utterly loony that its awesome entertainment!
Before I tell you what I really enjoyed about the movie (and hopefully help you through perhaps a similar journey of your own), here are a few things to note. Chennai Express has a crazy dumb premise. There is tons of ill logic. Rohit keeps a cracking pace - he never lets the movie slow down by belaboring a point. There are some highly creative scene transitions. The editing is top notch. There are seizure inducing camera jitters. The slow mo posturing has been toned down. The cinematography is luscious. The music is delicious. The dancing is delirious. Rohit, admirably credits the movie to "Rohit Shetty and Team". There are lots of jokes that would be called rascist in a less tolerant country. A lot of those jokes are not particularly funny. SRK delivers a Nokia Lumia ad in the film that is in jaw-droppingly bad taste.
Deepika almost drove me to distraction in this film. Her choice to add an accent is an inspired touch, but she messes it up badly. She's maddeningly inconsistent. Happily, she overcomes this by doing what SRK does (throwing herself in the deep end) and appears to be having a lot of fun in her role - which is infectious.
I really liked how both the actors handled the underwritten scenes in which they fall in love by way of encountering loyalty and caring (a recurring theme in Indian films).
To be fair I like both SRK and Deepika which is probably why I enjoyed Chennai Express. I came away thinking - so this is how much fun those Golmaals would have been if I could stand Ajay Devgn and Jeetinder's son (sorry I always forget his name).
Even Chennai Express's much maligned climax is full on entertaining. First, SRK delivers a head-scratching monologue about female empowerment in Hindi to a bunch of dumbfounded (non-Hindi speaking) locals. Then he proceeds to fight a strapping man (a smoldering Nikitin Dheer) for rights to win Deepika's hand in marriage. All through this, Deepika's dad - a local don with an unintentionally funny squint - holds her back with a light grip around her arm. Deepika, who plays a strong-headed rebel in the movie, makes a number of inexplicably lame attempts to break away. Much blood is shed and masculinity is asserted.
Finally a victorious and gladiatorially bloody SRK approaches a coyly smiling, sidelined Deepika.
Wow, I told myself, what un-ironed irony! I had no choice but to guffaw - although no one else in the theater seemed to find that funny.
Chennai Express broke the record for most collections in a paid preview (previous mark was set by Aamir Khan's 3 Idiots) and was the fastest to the Rs 100 crore mark (previous record holder was Salman Khan's Ek Tha Tiger)