A Guilty pleasure – 2.5/5.0
That phenomenon called Shah Rukh Khan is so endearingly typical in itself that one could come up with endless possible ways of spoofing, parodying, and paying homage to it. After the cheeky romanticism of this wildly popular make in Main Hoon Na and Om Shanti Om and its offensive adulation in Billu; Chennai Express is yet another burlesque tribute to Shah Rukh Khan’s characteristic brand, this time by way of Rohit Shetty’s auteuristic instincts (I mean that not in a laudatory, but in a descriptive sense.) How does the end product fare? Quite a guilty pleasure, I must say.
Expectedly, there isn’t a slightest hint of a pertinent narrative, nor does the film come up with an innovative treatment for conventional content (a la Kill Bill.) Most of the jokes are lowbrow and the proceedings stay clichéd and silly, but the tone of the film is buoyant enough to make that very disposition seem like the precise intention instead of a blemish, with the discerning honesty and innocence it all is infused with, it comes across as a nonchalant nostalgia trip. Shah Rukh Khan is in fine form here, charismatically doing what he does best and then, to the film’s detriment, some more. He seems to be at utmost ease, effortlessly charming in a way only he can be when he’s being his conventional self; but falters miserably when he tries to conform to the customary Rohit Shetty breed of facial contortion humour (the only actor who’s managed to pull that off so far is Sanjay Mishra in All The Best.) Shetty’s form here is buffoonish and rather arbitrary, the film frenziedly commuting between serving as a spoof of and tribute to the star and the director alike.
One could go on complaining about the absurd lack of logic and the inanity of the gags and the loudly stereotypical characters, but that’d be missing the point. Does Chennai Express even qualify as a decent film? No way. Does it have the delicious irreverence of Baadshah or the oblique astuteness of Ketan Mehta’s musical-spoof Oh Darling! Yeh Hai India! or for that matter any quality that might make me go back to it? It’s as juvenile as they come. This isn’t even a laugh riot, mind you, it’s a film that puts a gleeful smile on your face if you’re a fan of the actor’s ever-so-charming typical maneuvers.
Director Rohit Shetty has emphasized, from time to time, that his films are not for critics, but never has this statement come across as obscure as in this case. How does one really rate or summarize a film that one knows isn’t half-decent for one’s sensibilities, yet has had a jolly good time at the movies? Can one really praise a comedy with not a shred of wit or smartness, innovation or masterful craft (traits very much plausible in Masala cinema as well) but owe it to the fact that the concerned reviewer finds the very construct which the film in question is a pastiche of guiltily enjoyable? Chennai Express raises a lot of questions, but in a curiously cohesive intersection of content and tone, manages to be quaintly amusing.
By: Mohit Patil