Chennai Express

[Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Satyaraj; Music: Vishal-Shekar; Screenplay: Yunus Sajawal; Direction: Rohit Shetty]

In Rajinikanth’s films, he usually plays Rajinikanth. He is expected to replay his classic one-liners from his previous films, to re-enact some of the famous scenes, and other characters are expected to sing ode to his fame. This should happen regardless of the character he plays. That’s what happens when you go beyond a certain level of stardom. That’s what happened to John Wayne, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and now happening to Shah Rukh Khan.

You’re able to sit through, and to some extent tolerate, the banality called Chennai Express simply because he is there. You know there’s this stunningly beautiful Deepika Padukone on the screen next to him, in most of the scenes. But you often have to remind yourself to ‘ogle’ at her and not him. That’s not being homophile. That’s being a star.

Deciding to cast him was the only hard-work Rohit Shetty must have endured. The script, if there ever was one, stutters and stumbles. Yunus Sajawal, the writer, seems to have mistaken that there are only two characters in the film and the art director seems to be under the impression that they were actually making Kochi Express. The script is so lazy and pedestrian that no Tamilian would be able to identify with either the language or the locales. Was the film really shot in Tamil Nadu? Where the hell are those locations?

Since he apparently didn’t bother to even write a decent script, it is perhaps too much to expect that Shetty would hire a nativity adviser to help him with Tamil culture. I mean, seriously, Tangabali? Where did you get that name? And why is this ‘Tanabali’ wearing kurta-pyjama in a remote rural Tamil Nadu? And what accent is that? How did he manage to learn Hindi? And why is Meenamma alternating between standard Hindi to that awkwardly accented one? Mr Shetty, in which part of South India did you hear that accent?

We know it’s a mass commercial entertainer, so we shouldn’t be asking many questions. But does ‘mass commercial entertainer’ also means no scripting and no basic research is required? I mean if you are really that lazy to even not bother to hire a nativity adviser or a diction trainer, who would have come at just a couple of lakhs, or spend a couple of months in adding original scenes, and not just decide to recycle from previous Tamil and Telugu films, how do you expect the audience to put in the effort to like your work? Granted you’ve got Shah Rukh, but how much work even that poor guy is expected to do?

Mr Shetty: please be informed that no one, even if he is a don, can pull the emergency chain to stop the train. That does not happen in Tamil Nadu. In Bihar, yes; UP, yes. Not in Tamil Nadu. Rural people do not float lamps at the nearby pond. That may happen in Punjab, or Gujarat or Rajasthan. Not Tamil Nadu. The type of marigold shown in the film is not used in Tamil Nadu. In UP, yes, but not Tamil Nadu. Not even in Kerala!

Honestly this is the first Rohit Shetty film I’ve seen. If this is what Brand Shetty stands for, in future I would like to stay at least a hundred-mile away from this drivel, unless, of course, Shah Rukh is in it!