No one would have cringed more than true blue fans of King Khan when the first trailer of the film appeared. Unapologetically laden with a “lungi“ song and Deepika’s over the top South Indian accent that we were all quick to deign as “bakwaos”! SRK’s hamming was national focus again and after the rude shock that RaOne proved to be we were just too scared for our favorite hero and for ourselves. Like SRK himself says in "Chennai Express" “doodh ka jala burnol bhi phoonk phoonk ker lagata hai”.
Also there was global outrage at how SRK was again using hackneyed stereotypes and poking fun of South Indian culture. Mind it! We hadn’t even seen the film but we were all criticizing it like we already had. Agreed certain stereotypes have long crossed their “best before” date (such as Bengalis with roshogulla in their mouth accent or sardars necessarily as loony as Santa Banta jokes) but to come out hammer and tong at every such representation is also equally silly. We are a land of diversity and nowhere is it celebrated with more fanfare that in Indian Cinema!
But then to be fair to all skeptics SRK did make a profligate statement while playing the noodle haired Shekhar Subramaniam in RaOne. Thus for the recompense seeking audience Shahrukh’s southern fixation in his latest venture seemed akin to another nose –dive. Chennai Express is the story of Rahul (SRK) who is living a rather jaded life with his over loving grandfather in Mumbai. At 40 he decides to be naughty! Now you would obviously want to board this train with the Oh! so pretty Deepika and the king of hearts SRK but like with all trips just make sure you know what you are getting into. This journey is esoteric with a promised brain rest for some 140 odd minutes. Yes Chennai Express is no Ship Of Theseus in vision or Taare Zameen Par in depth! Being true to the genre that Bollywood has over the past created and maintained with a lot of alacrity this “mindless comedy” has a rather quixotic storyline. Torn between going to Rameshwaram to immerse his grandfather’s ashes and a trip to Goa with his friends , Rahul finds himself inexplicably boarding Chennai Express with Meenamma ( Deepika Padukone ) who is running away from her “paryathalai” father ( Sathyaraj) and Thangaballi ( Nikitin Dheer).This is DDLJ with director Rohit Shetty as the tour guide.
This ride is neither for the fastidious nor for those taking things too seriously. Be ready to be laughed at and with your favorite stars on screen. There is a lot of lampooning and self depreciating humor which is SRK’s way of saying that inspite of being the reigning king of Bollywood if he doesn’t take himself too serious why should we? It’s all in good faith and for some easy laughs! He makes fun of his own spread arms, sideway glances making hearts go a flutter, ruffling of hair and flashing those dimples and of course his train love – rendezvous always leading to “ladki ke baap ko patana”! SRK does all this and more in turn making fun of those laughing at him all these years. It’s an anti-dote to all the criticism piling up about his hamming and over the top romance. After all the joke is on those who take him too seriously. He is an actor and the suave, well read, ever ready with a repartee SRK knows his brand of romance is the stuff of dreams but isn’t that what his job is … to sell dreams?
As an on-screen pair SRK and Deepika are a match made in heaven. At one point in the movie Deepika even makes fun of a 50 yr old Shahrukh but age seriously is no bar as far as their chemistry is concerned!
With no scatological humor, thankfully no condom references and no un-necessary skin show Chennai Express is one joyful family ride barring the troughs in the second half with some painfully long song sequences and laugh less minutes. Except “1,2,3,4 get on the dance floor “, “titli” and “lungi dance” right at the end Vishal and Shekhar haven’t really come up with their best. In comparison the first half is definitely pacy and Rahul – Meenamma antakshari and Deepika’s sleep talking are crests that make this ride quite worth it.
If taking it easy isn’t one of your strengths then this might just be a train wreck but if you are in the mood for some innocuous fun then to take a leaf out of Meenamma’s dictionary – “dimaag ghar per chodd ker aati to film definitely enjoy kerti; Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaati Aur tum Purani yaadon ko phir taza kerti."