Same old North Indian-South Indian love story, same old Punju v/s Madrasi moments, same old national integration clichés, same old nasty father, same old muscular villain who comes in the way of true love, same old climactic confrontation between frail hero and muscular villain, same old predictable victory of frail hero over muscular villain in spite of being pounded to a pulp by said villain while said nasty father watches on, same old message of love crossing all boundaries of language and culture. Same old, same old.
What pray, is new and inspiring about all this? What does Chennai Express offer that one has not seen in North-South love stories from the early days of Bollywood? One is reminded, for example, of Kishore Kumar-Vyjanthimala in New Delhi (1956), and Kamalahaasan-Rati Agnihotri in Ek Duje ke liye (1981), to name just two.
Well, one has to admit that the sight of Deepika Padukone running in tantalising slo-mo, in a low-cut blouse, to catch the Chennai Express was quite inspiring. And the movie is well presented, with deft cinematography, spectacular scenery from South India’s countryside, rich colors and crystal-clear sound editing.
The days of scratchy celluloid film and whirring projectors are thankfully over. Modern-day digital movies are a pleasure to watch. Modern-day audiences however, are not a pleasure to watch a movie with. Too many un-muted cellphones, too many inconsiderate idiots texting away on smartphones with super-bright screens, too many weird and over-loud ring tones.
Chennai Express is nice to watch, nevertheless. The movie does have its funny moments, even if the jokes are a bit contrived and the laughter is a bit forced.
Deepika’s ‘bokwaas’ Madrasi accent is hard to accept and jarring on the ears, but she is pleasant on a man’s eyes. Ah, that sweet dimpled smile. Almost makes up for her lack of acting ability. Her bedroom comedy scene with SRK made me wince. But with a face that pretty, Ms Padukone can get away with some over-acting.
In an obvious (and successful) attempt to woo Madrasi viewers, the movie is liberally seasoned with Tamil dialogs and has several faces that will be familiar to Mollywood fans – Sathyaraj as the nasty father, Delhi Ganesh and Mohan Raman in supporting roles, and Priyamani in a raunchy and typically Tamilian item number.
And of course, Thalaiva Rajnikanth’s virtual but larger-than-life appearance in the much-hyped lungi number at the end of the movie, will pull in the Chennai crowds.
Pankaj Dheer’s massively built son Nikitin plays a pretty good role as the primary antagonist, as does Sathyaraj as the other antagonist.
That said, there is still not much in Chennai Express that one would recommend to a discerning movie-goer. Go see it if you feel compelled to watch SRK. If you don’t see it, you haven’t missed much. But SRK won’t mind one bit.
Chennai Express has already raked in more than Rs.300 crore world-wide. Discerning movie-goers, like Yours Truly, will not be missed.
Cheers … Srini.