Bollywood’s ‘King Khan’ Shah Rukh Khan is back, and this time he’s playing ‘Rahul’ again! (Khan is famous for being called Rahul in most of his films.)
‘Chennai Express’ – Bolly’s biggest release of 2013 – is a shameless, silly and shallow ‘masala’ entertainer which represents, yet again, everything that is reprehensible about mass commercial Hindi cinema.
‘Let’s start at the beginning!’ the voiceover begins as we meet ageing hero Rahul, who has been asked by his granny to travel from Mumbai in north west India to Rameswaram Island in the south to scatter his grandpa’s ashes in the holy site’s waters. He boards the train (see title) and meets feisty Meenamma (Deepika Padukone), a Tamil girl on the run from an arranged marriage.
Spoiler alert! The pair fall in love via some silly songs (stupidly, not subtitled). Rahul returns his ‘dulhan’ (bride) to her village, but will the braveheart have the courage to win her dad and her ‘hairy and scary’ ex fiancé over?
Director Rohit Shetty’s trademark brainless formula (the ‘Golmaal’ trilogy, ‘Bol Bachchan’) has resulted in mega-blockbusters. He tones down the crassness here but the result is just as superficial, dishonest and frustrating. It’s a pathetic attempt to recreate the magic of Bollywood’s most successful film ever (1995’s ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’), stuffed with lots of bolly-injokes, which will leave newcomers to the genre baffled.
At 46, lead man Khan should be ashamed of himself for wanting to be the next kick-ass action hero whilst Shetty panics and does not update the regressive politics of the classic he is paying homage to. Do not be fooled by its feminist pretensions (‘village elders should listen to their daughters emotions’); the puny hero gets the gal only after a lengthy bloody fistfight with the stock Bolly-baddie.
Visually, the film is a stunning treat especially when it ventures briefly into the Indian southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Ideally, this Express should be derailed at the box-office as its plain trash. Alas, it may well be the biggest smash-hit of 2013!