Spoiler Alert: What is colourful and dull at the same time? Answer – Chennai Express!

Published: August 16, 2013
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This is undeniably Shahrukh Khan’s best comic performance. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

This is undeniably Shahrukh Khan’s best comic performance. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

This is undeniably Shahrukh Khan’s best comic performance. PHOTO: PUBLICITY This is undeniably Shahrukh Khan’s best comic performance. PHOTO: PUBLICITY
KARACHI: 

It may be categorised in the ‘most inconsequential forms of cinema ever’ box, but Chennai Express has done wonders at the box office in Pakistan and India. The Shahrukh Khan and Deepika Padukone-starrer is an aesthetically selected evolution of the Dabangg genre.

Much like recent films that made big money at the box office, this romantic action comedy relies heavily on cliches but not the ones popularised by Salman Khan a few years back; instead, you’ll find the kind pioneered by King Khan almost two decades ago.

So here’s the plot for the film that manages to give even the thickest skinned viewers something to laugh about. Right when 40-year-old bachelor Rahul is all set for a trip to Goa, his grandfather passes away. As per his wishes, Rahul has to immerse a part of his grandfather’s cremated ashes in Rameshwaram. To dupe his grandmother, he boards the Chennai Express (with all intentions to meet his friends in Goa), when, in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge style, he helps Meenama (Deepika Padukone) onto the train, as well as  four more people who turn out to be thugs running after her. The rest is a predictable combination of slapstick comedy, romance and action in Rameshwaram (South India).

The script has its highs and lows. Whenever you think it’s reaching a flat point, the director astonishes you with a visually exciting song. But before the climax, where Rahul is finally negotiating with Meenama’s father, it seems as if SRK is asking for permission to adopt his daughter rather than asking for her hand in marriage. The colour grading of the songs really breathes new life into the visuals and keeps you from going out to take a break. The tunes by Vishal-Shekhar are catchy and give a new sound to a rather stereotypical story without relying on the usual suspects of hit film music, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and more recently Sukhwinder Singh. Keeping its stylistic brilliance aside, the film at large, is a drag and relies on needless action sequences to which neither the special effects supervisor nor Khan could do justice.

The character Rahul is designed to suit SRK’s limited acting skills. Everything around him has been smartly tailored by the director to suit SRK’s shortcomings as an actor, making him seem immersed in the character. But, this is undeniably his best comic performance. SRK manages to generate the raunchy humour expected of him; a person of his build (which is quite basic compared to B-town standards) shares a major chunk of screen space playing Tom & Jerry with thugs four times his size. There are some scenes in which SRK is genuinely funny, such as when he tries to ask a dwarf on the highway for directions as he makes his way out of the jungle. Not only does his comic timing surprisingly return, but this is also one of the very rare scenes where he actually shares real chemistry with a co-star.

Padukone’s character is the real driving force of the film, perhaps with a little too much power. Her irritating accent will get under your skin and her saris keep her mostly covered (sorry, guys!) and less glamorous. But other than that, she makes her presence felt by pulling off such a difficult dialect with ease as well as dominating a performer of Khan’s calibre at some places.

The film ends with King Khan paying tribute to Rajinikanth, the king of South Indian cinema, whose star power has recently won over film-makers from Bollywood. While some might consider this the official acceptance of South Indian cinema’s domination over Bollywood, it still doesn’t change the fact that most of the South Indian linguistic and cultural references were pushed in to generate humour. This was hypocritical and racist on the part of film-makers, and reiterates the fact that Bollywood is far from celebrating diversity in its mainstream narrative – something an industry its age should have exercised by now.

Verdict: Recommended for die-hard SRK fans. For the rest, brace yourselves for a reckless escape and pointless humour.
2.5/5

Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (32)

  • Fact
    Aug 16, 2013 - 9:28PM

    SRK – the most overrated star ever!!!

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  • Muneer Ali
    Aug 16, 2013 - 9:48PM

    Leave Chennai Express and watch ‘Ishq Khuda’ – much better thought-provoking cinema.

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  • np
    Aug 16, 2013 - 9:57PM

    “But other than that, she makes her presence felt by pulling off such a difficult dialect with ease”

    IT isn’t a dialect but an accent. Deepika herself is from the south so she should not have a problem.

    “This was hypocritical and racist on the part of film-makers, and reiterates the fact that Bollywood is far from celebrating diversity in its mainstream narrative”

    Do you realize that Rohit Shetty himself is a south Indian and so Is Deepika and a large part of the crew that made Chennai Express? This movie has performed much better in the south than most Bollywood offerings. So clearly they do not seem to agree with your accusation of racism.

    “tunes by Vishal-Shekhar are catchy and give a new sound to a rather stereotypical story without relying on the usual suspects of hit film music, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and more recently Sukhwinder Singh.”

    Agree songs like Titli indeed have a different sound to them. By the way Sukhwinder Singh is not a recent phenomenon. He has been delivering hits from the 90s including the superhit Chhaiya Chhaiya filmed on Shah Rukh also and also on a train.Recommend

  • Zain Haider
    Aug 16, 2013 - 11:09PM

    Clearly shows racism against SRK!

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  • Muhammad Saadullah
    Aug 16, 2013 - 11:26PM

    plz plz stop watching indian movies….plz be a PAKISTANI….

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  • Fawad
    Aug 17, 2013 - 1:28AM

    Watching indian movies makes India profitable not us!

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  • np
    Aug 17, 2013 - 2:24AM

    @Fawad: Bulk of the profit goes to cinema owners and distributors in Pakistan not indian producers. Plus if you do not want to see India movies – don’t. The revenue from Pakistan is a drop in the ocean anyway and will not be missed. It is Pakistani people who will be deprived entertainment.Recommend

  • RV
    Aug 17, 2013 - 2:33AM

    As someone who grew up in Chennai, I can say that the last para of this review is absolutely the best observation about this movie I’ve read anywhere. Yes, there is a tribute to Rajinikanth at the end – but it’s very badly done. The heroine’s accent is unrecognizable – it’s what someone thinks that the South Indian accent should be, as opposed to what it actually is – or even a funny version of what it actually is. It’s not difficult at all to find a decent language coach, if they wanted to. The fact that the heroine and director are South Indians is immaterial. It’s obvious they didn’t have a clue is some areas and thought they could just wing it. That said, I appreciated some of the things they got right – the 1234 song was well done, the last fight scene was also appropriate for a spoof of a South Indian movie. Also, except for those stereotype gaffes, I did enjoy the movie.

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  • Deepwater
    Aug 17, 2013 - 2:49AM

    Plz be a Pakistani …. please don’t use computers (western invention)…or internet (western)…or electricity (western)…or the English language (for sure western).
    Plz don’t be a hypocrite.

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  • someone
    Aug 17, 2013 - 3:44AM

    @Muhammad Saadullah:
    Plz Plz do so.Pakistanis deserve much better picture like “voti leke jaani hai” , “gandasa” gujjar etc.

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  • hasan
    Aug 17, 2013 - 4:55AM

    what nonsense.. hollywood movies are watched all over the world, which makes them profitable.. does that mean we stop watching good english movies? This is 21st century, and we need to learn to compete… all that we produce is 10-12 junk movies every year and we would like to live in our closed room blaming others ..

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  • ModiFied
    Aug 17, 2013 - 7:28AM

    Music and culture are like wind which do not recognize any border. Irrespective of Indo=Pak relations, music and culture are common. My latest craze is listening to Benjamin sisters singing old Pakistani songs. There three sisters are par with Mangeshkar sisters. In united India they would have given tough competition to the best of the best in Bollywood. This is why I feel that division of India has harmed Pakistan in every possible way.

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  • Gp65
    Aug 17, 2013 - 8:05AM

    @Fawad:
    Chennai express collected 156.7 crore rupees in Indian boz office in the first week and 70 crore rupees in the overseas box office during the same time. The collection of this movie in Pakistan in first week was 5 crore Pakistani rupees or 3 crore Indian rupees. Of the 3 crore rupees, most would have gone to distributors and cinema owners. Movies like Ek Tha Tiger which were banned in Pakistan wen on to earn over 250 crore worldwide. So please do not overestimate Pakistani viewers contribution to Indian movies.

    On the other hand, as another news item in Tribune seemed to indicate total collection of all movies across Pakistan in the Eid week was 10 crore Pakistani rupees of which 5 crore was by Chennai express. So if the movie had not been displayed, 50% people in Pakistan would not have had a chance to enjoy their first choice for Eid. Thus any attempt o ban Indian movies very significantly narrows entertainment options for Pakistani audiences, not to mention economic opportunity for Pakistani talent.

    The fact that Indian movies were banned before 2008 in Pakistan and yet Lollywood production took a major dive both in terms of quality and quantity shows that allowing Indian movies to be screened in Pakistan is NOT the reason for the plight of Lollywood.Recommend

  • aq
    Aug 17, 2013 - 9:58AM

    bekaar film.

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  • choclet
    Aug 17, 2013 - 11:42AM

    would have watched it for deepika’s performance n if there would have been another hero, but not srk! i find him repulsive! n like if i would have been an A list heroine and paid crores then like katrina (jab tak hai jaan) would have got intimate with him overlooking his unhealthy, unbearable persona. after all it’s acting and make believe – imagining ranbir while going thru those moments!

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  • mohammed
    Aug 17, 2013 - 12:56PM

    Who is rafay mahmoud super star of pakistan

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  • Rakib
    Aug 17, 2013 - 2:18PM

    @np:
    Deepika herself is from the south so she should not have a problem…….Do you realize that Rohit Shetty himself is a south Indian and so Is Deepika .

    Racial jokes are not unusual in the world; why should Indians-the incorrigible racists-be an exception? Racial prejudice against dark-skinned Tamils is the most ancient of all prejudices in India, going back to epic-age. The Tamil stereotype in Bollywood was brilliantly immortalised by late Mehmood in film “Padosan”. That said, Bollywood has happily made fun not only of Tamil accent but also of Sindhi, Bengali, Parsi-Gujarati, Marwari or Punjabi accents with not a word from Censor Board ever!

    “South India” as a geographic description does not mean a single unit. Ignorance of North Indians (Gujaratis in particular) is such that they have merely substituted the epithet “Madrasee” with “South Indian”! It is not all Tamilnadu. Deepika may not know Tamil,Telugu or Malayalam at all.. The four States have distinct languages/culture/ ethnic characteristics of their own. Kannadigas of west coast do not share the pride of Tamils of east coast in Dravidian origins of race or language. Neither Shetty nor Padukone is a Dravidian Tamil & will have absolutely no qualms about making racist-fun of Tamils. She is a Kannadiga from Padukone town in Udipi district of Karnataka but her mother tongue is Konkani, which is tad closer to Marathi. (Some Gaud Saraswat Konkanis might even make a claim of being original Kashmiri Brahmins brought in by Parashuram!!). She belongs to same community as legendary dirctor/actor Guru Dutt whose original name was Vasanth Kumar Padukone. Rohit Shetty, like Shilpa, Sunil & Aishwarya Rai, too comes from same region, the district of Mangalore that is next to Udipi though their language is Tulu, which like Coorgi, is closer to Kannada.

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  • chai
    Aug 17, 2013 - 3:09PM

    “hypocritical and racist” .. OH Please !!! Watch Indian films from last 50 years and you would find similar cliches. We Indians don’t mind being made fun of .. Sardarji jokes never irritates a Sardarji or comments on Lungi would never irritate a South Indian.. Nobody here in India complains.

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  • Dawood
    Aug 17, 2013 - 6:51PM

    @Muhammad Saadullah:
    SRK is your muslim bro why muslims hate muslims????

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  • Dawood
    Aug 17, 2013 - 6:52PM

    @Fawad:
    why muslims hate muslims SRK is muslims?????

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  • Noora
    Aug 17, 2013 - 9:45PM

    Indians, for god sake find some new and better actors i am fed up watching Khans ( particularly rotten SRK) and Akshey dancing with girls of there grand daughters age. Today, top play back singers for Indian cinema are Pakistanis e.g Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Atif Aslam etc, why dont you try more actors from Pakistan?

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  • Np
    Aug 17, 2013 - 10:19PM

    @Rakib:
    There is a difference between racism and stereotyping. Stereotyping occurs in a majority of Hindi movies. But if you have seen. This more, you will know there was

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  • A reader
    Aug 18, 2013 - 6:39AM

    @Rakib

    “Gaud Saraswat Konkanis might even make a claim of being original Kashmiri Brahmins brought in by Parashuram!!”

    And your problem with this claim is? If you believe in your religion and various scriptures and sayings, I don’t see why you should have a problem with other people having beliefs as well, albeit different from yours. Nobody’s religious beliefs are empirically verifiable, and mythology generally means an unproven or unprovable set of beliefs, not a falsehood. In fact, Saraswats are held by Brahmins of all kinds (including non-Saraswats) to have originated from the areas known as Kashmir, Tajikistan and the areas surrounding the Swat (Subhavastu) river. There are Saraswats in Maharashtra, Goa and Punjab as well. Kashmiri Brahmins are understood to be Saraswats themselves. Saraswats are people that originated from the areas surrounding of the Saraswat river, which is now thought to have become an underground river whereas it once used to be visible on the earths topography.

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  • Insaan
    Aug 18, 2013 - 7:24AM

    @Muhammad Saadullah: plz plz stop watching indian movies….plz be a PAKISTANI….

    Don’t stop watching porn movies…plz be a PAKISTANI….
    You can see lot of Pakistani home made movies on the Internet.

    Recommend

  • Np
    Aug 18, 2013 - 10:32AM

    @Noora:
    So do let us know, which Pakistani actor has the fan following in even Pakistan to get such audience response as Shah Rukh recently got for Chennai express, nor was this a fluke. MNIK also got a fabulous response.

    Atif Aslam songs 4-5 songs a year for Bollywood put of around 1000 songs a year that are recorded. So to imply that he is the centerpiece of Bollywood music is simply delusional.

    In any event, let me ask you this. If Pakistan has the best actors and best musicians, why does it not have a competitive movie industry? Why do Pakistanis prefer to watch Bollywood movies rather than Lollywood movies as determined by revenues within Pakistan forget other competing elsewhere such as UAE and UK where there are equal number of Pakistanis as Indians.

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  • Rakib
    Aug 18, 2013 - 2:40PM

    @A reader:

    {And your problem with this claim is?}

    None. I am indifferent to it. A claim that they were brought by Parashuram is a harmless assertion, it may surprise some as news but it needn’t be challenged on anybody’s say-so because nothing is to be gained by it. There is no end to it all if one starts having issues with all kinds of claims be they legitimate, provable, outlandish, or harebrained of any religion, sect or denomination in a huge country. About origins of Saraswats & others, people must decide one way or the other.. BG Tilak may have said Aryans (obviously Brahmins too) came from areas closer to North Pole but RSS-writers says not one of them invaded/migrated from outside India & whole lot originated in India and Bhagwandas Gidwani says Aryans originated in India went to Europe & North Asia & returned to India & you say Tajikistan and some say banks of Amu Darya (Oxus) or River Saraswati. All ok with me while people make up their mind.

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  • Aug 18, 2013 - 4:41PM

    Rajinikanth has been the biggest star in India since the 80s. There is a great language barrier which prevented people in other parts of India to actually recognise this and watch South Indian films.

    Even though I am not a Tamilian, I have no doubt in my mind that Rajnikanth is the biggest star in India.

    This fascination of him for the rest of India is quite recent, when people from all over India started coming to Bangalore and Chennai and Hyderabad, which collectively host 80% of India’s IT, for work. The migration to these cities started in the 90s and is in full flow today.

    Learning the local languages opened up a whole new world for them! Soon the word spread and South Indian movies began be to adopted in Hindi movies. This is sub-culture learning from other sub-cultures, unique to only India.

    For example, Aamir Khan made Ghajini, years after it was made in Tamil. Pakistanis liked Hindi version of Ghajini because of the language and they are completely unaware of an entire world within India.

    Pakistanis must be wondering who this Rajnikanth is and why is he famous: I suggest to watch one of his movies, say, Baasha. That was the first movie I watched of Rajni.

    After watching that, I never tire from reminding people that Rajni is from my hometown – Bangalore.

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  • salaf
    Aug 18, 2013 - 6:29PM

    only people with low intelligence can sit through three hours of an indian film and be entertained. why is anyone excited about another srk movie where he plays himself again. very cheesey.

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  • abbas
    Aug 19, 2013 - 5:06PM

    what a stupid review, SRK’s limited acting ability? what are you talking about ?

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  • someone
    Aug 20, 2013 - 5:38AM

    @salaf:
    Yeah and people of higher intelligence like you watch Syed Noor’s movies.

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  • bla
    Aug 20, 2013 - 10:56AM

    @ someone
    i am so over srk phenomenon now, its too cheesy, repetitive and annoying. I agree with salaf that people with low self intelligence can bear to sit thru his movies, that doesnt imply that syed noor’s movies are any better. its not an india vs pakistani thing so please refrain from such absurd comparisons

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  • Somdet
    Aug 20, 2013 - 5:51PM

    @Insaan:
    hahaha; yeah I also watched many Pakistani Homemade movies. You can also find Arab homemade, Muslim Homemade with Hijab. Nice movies, better than Chennai Express. I would recommend all to watch.

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