In 1999, Shah Rukh Khan was seen in Abbas-Mustan’s Baadshah which I rate as one of my all-time favourite films (despite knowing it’s lifted from several foreign films). The film showcased SRK as never before and it was a treat to see him in the comic scenes. His comic timing was impeccable! Post-Baadshah, he never did a comedy though he did show his flair for it as and where needed in his flicks. And now, he finally gets back into the comic zone and that too in Rohit Shetty style with Chennai Express! This is not a perfect film, has several loose ends and is riddled with few geographical and topographical errors. But thankfully, it entertains big time!
The story of the movie: Rahul (Shah Rukh Khan) is a 40-year-old unmarried man who has lived his whole life under the shadow of his grandparents. His grandfather (Lekh Tandon) passes away and as per his wishes, he is told by his grandmother (Kamini Kaushal) to immerse his ashes in Rameswaram. Rahul, though, has different plans. And as per his plan, he gets into Chennai Express from Mumbai. Sadly for him, nothing goes as per planned. He bumps into Meena (Deepika Padukone) and a bunch of goons from Southern India. Circumstances compel these goons to take Rahul to their village in Tamil Nadu which is ruled by a don (Sathyaraj). What happens next is a roller-coaster ride as Rahul tries his way to escape from the bad guys and also learn some valuable lessons in life.
Chennai Express has quite a shaky start but gets ‘back on track’ as Rahul boards the train and meets Meena and the gang. The entire train journey episode is hilarious and SRK showcases his flair for comedy that is terrific. Shockingly, however, in a few places, he goes bit overboard because of which the jokes fall flat. The fun continues as Rahul reaches the village though the humour quotient is not as great as it was in the train scene. Nevertheless, the film keeps one engaged. The action sequence minutes before the intermission is terrific, laden with car chase and yes, cars flying high and exploding in trademark Rohit Shetty style!
The second half commences well and the humour gives way to some poignant and emotional moments. The writers and director deserve praise for seeping it effortlessly in the narrative and hence doesn’t look out of place at all. Same goes for Rahul’s speech in the climax. The finale, as expected, is action-packed and the best part is, it looks real and convincing, including the scene when a single man is fighting so many goondas who are more powerful than the former. Kudos! However, once again, it doesn’t give viewers a high as one has seen something like this countless number of times before in Bollywood. But witnessing SRK doing something like this is an experience in itself, though!
Shah Rukh Khan is more or less great and plays his part with perfection. In a few scenes, he has gone overboard, especially in the beginning. But after a point, he looked absolutely at ease in doing the over-the-top comedy. Performance wise, the actor is doing fabulous since the last 23 years. Sadly, most of his films nowadays are good, even very good, but not great. He’s an actor who deserves to be seen in much better films. Hope Chennai Express works big time for the superstar, and that his future ventures are better than his current lot of films!
Deepika Padukone effortlessly slips into her character. Although her ‘main yeh karti’, ‘tum hamare saath chalti’ doesn’t always sound convincing, her performance is quite lovable. Sathyaraj looked every inch a don and a villain in a love story. Nikitin Dheer (Tangabali) is terrific to say the least! He’s played a negative role several times but what he does in Chennai Express is something else! Hats off! Lekh Tandon and Kamini Kaushal are good in their respective parts. Mukesh Tiwari (cop) was quite nice. The actors who play SRK’s friends were alright. Priyamani looks great in the item number. Good to see an item number, by the way, that in no way is suggestive or objectionable!
Vishal-Shekhar’s music is not of chartbuster variety, but fine nevertheless. All songs are shot beautifully, especially Titli, Kashmir Main and Tera Rastaa. And contrary to rumours, Lungi Dance song is very much there in the film! Background score is better than the music score and escalates impact in some scenes. The film, in fact, is technically brilliant. Cinematographer Dudley has always done a great job but he stands out in Chennai Express! Few shots take the breath away! Same goes for VFX. Sets are not perfectly authentic and that, maybe, is also to do with the locales of Wai that in no way resembles Tamil Nadu! But scenes shot near the waterfall and Rameswaram are breathtaking. Action, as in every Rohit Shetty film, is sans complaint. Sajid-Farhad as always rock the show with their funny and rhyming dialogues. K Subhash’s story has potential but Yunus Sajawal and Robin Bhatt’s screenplay could have been better. Same goes for Rohit Shetty’s direction. The director, off late, came up with some great films in which humour quotient was excellent. Chennai Express should have raised the bar which sadly it doesn’t. Nevertheless, Shetty keeps viewers engrossed in the narrative and this happens even when film gets a bit mellow and multiple songs are inserted in the second hour. Also, the manner in which Rahul and Meena communicate by singing songs is absolutely hilarious and in many ways, the best part of the enterprise!
On the whole, Chennai Express is a fun-filled ride. It makes for a unique experience as one gets to see Shah Rukh Khan indulging in over-the-top comedy and blasting cars, all in Rohit Shetty style. Very sadly, it’s not the perfect film. It’s predictable, offers nothing new in a way and surely could have had much more humor and exhilaration. Nevertheless, it’s a feel-good-fare and watching it would certainly be no harm. At the box office, the film might set new records in the weekend and if all goes well, this would be SRK’s biggest grosser!
Rating: Three and a half stars