Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why I enjoyed Chennai Express - an alternate opinion

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.

But Mum absolutely wanted to see Rohit's latest record-breaking venture Chennai Express and no amount of discouragement through strategically placed bad reviews on the breakfast table seemed to change her mind. Since you can't do tequila shots in a theater in Vadodara, I had to prep differently. First, I lowered all my expectations. I consoled myself by noting that Mum laughs at everything - so that would keep me entertained. I called in a friend to keep me company. I picked a late night show - perfect for napping.

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.

So what made the movie work for me? The two lead actors in the film. Both SRK and Deepika grab their roles by the horns and overact the hell out of them. This is the absolute most correct way to approach a Rohit Shetty film. You can't afford to be ironic or understated. I haven't seen SRK look this comfortable in a role since his fine turn in Chak De India years ago. He throws himself at every joke, sadela or otherwise, as if his life depended on it. He does camp, satire, comic homage, straight laced comedy, juvenile comedy, stereotypes and pratfalls. He's a fearless joker. You can't help but root for him.

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)


Radhika said...

You know what I think...I think you had a serious attack of PTSD after the movie :)
I remember I got that after Bol Bachchan..what he (Rohit Shetty) would have done to SRK and D I dont know and I am scared to find out.
How did your mum like it?

Kanan said...

Everyone is asking me to skip it, but your review makes me wanna go watch it now. Also because I enjoy movies that fall under "bokwoss" err I mean ekdam-third-class-lekin-mast category so this will definitely be an awesome watch. Am hoping this coming weekend ;) Thanks for convincing me to experience this journey! LOL

Unknown said...

Mum laughed her ass off. But she would probably do the same if I showed her Dark Knight. So maybe that's not a great data point. If anything I think Rohit has captured the Awards Show Host SRK perfectly.

Kanan, I would definitely go see the movie. It's quite a circus!

Unknown said...

Aspi, i knew we would agree on the unintentional hilarity of this movie. Saw it at the amc navy pier with a packed house on a Monday. While I fell out of love with srk long ago (kank ra1)deepika has come a long way. Love aaj kal was rendered lifeless thanks to her dead face which could have rivalled katrina at the time. But no such complaints here, ive been singing 'shauchalay shauchalay' for a week now!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johny Ma said...

Haha, good one! You represent it as worth seeing. I listen to the The Thalaiva Tribute Feat. Honey Singhfrom this movie, and liked it.

Unknown said...

Glad you enjoyed it leera. Less fun if the audience isn't packed and read to be entertained.

Movie Review Spy said...

Movie was clean. No vulgar dialogues, no bikinis or cleavages. Its been a long time i think since a bollywood movie came where actually we can take children to theaters.Only thing i wished for was a better story.
Chennai Express - Weird Angles

Tanvi said...

OMG Aspi G! We had the EXACT same thoughts about this movie. I am more excited 'coz we seldom agree on movies (; hehe

Anonymous said...

The bit about Deepika's accent is hilarious :D