South Indian movies are in a league of their own. They hugely colourful, totally over-the-top and filled with impossibilities. Even more impossibilities than their Hindi counterparts. They are also awfully popular and successful, raking in the moolah by truckloads.
Chennai Express is a worthy successor in those shoes. I went with some misgivings about the movie being loaded snide ones that poke fun at South Indians because when you think of South Indians in Hindi movies, there are only stereotypes that crop up. Quickly into the movie, came the first laugh. A genuinely funny turnaround of the famous last (girl-running-to-the-train) scene from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. That takeoff is hilarious – especially the use of the song Tujhe dekha toh yeh jaana sanam.
This sequence was quickly followed by another funny sequence…and then the gags just rolled on and on. Deepika speaks with a wonderfully done, thick South Indian accent without once slipping into caricaturizing it. Dialogues in Tamil fly around frequently – in fact Chennai Express could well be the first Hin-il (Hindi-Tamil) film.
Rahul (Shahrukh Khan) is a 40 year-old bachelor having his first moment of freedom. While trying to slink off to Goa with a couple of friends, he gets waylaid into a headlong rush of events when he offers his hand to a damsel rushing to catch a train pulling out of the station. Turns out she, Meenalochani Azhagusundaram (Deepika Padukone), called Meenamma by all (including the hero), is a don’s daughter. A frequent runner-away from home, her father is trying to get her married to the son of another don to merge their kingdoms and she doesn’t want to marry him.
If the storyline sounds familiar, it is almost the same as Salman Khan’s Ready. However, the Readystory is practically a Mahabharat compared to the whisper-thin storyline that Chennai Express has. But Chennai Express is a super-express of mindless entertainment with absolutely mindboggling visuals.
Rahul and Meena are indefatigable and spirited. Self-centeredness and selflessness are nicely blended in both the characters. There is nothing really outstanding about any single character in the movie. But then, Chennai Express is not about characterizations. It is unapologetically and unabashedly aiming to be just a mind-free comedy – which it does with superb élan.
Rohit Shetty has created and conquered a genre of absurd entertainers (starting with the Golmaal franchise) and Chennai Express is a brilliantly multihued feather in his cap of this genre. Shahrukh is in his element, though this is way out of his genre of romance. Deepika totally shines. She is quickly becoming one of the finest actresses of her times.
When Chennai and Tamilnadu are mentioned, there is a giant in that land – and all filmmakers feel compelled to pay homage to him. Rajnikant. There was a moment in Ra One (remember the fight sequence outside Chennai airport?) and there is a whole song in this one. The Lungi Dance, a tribute to Thalaiva (the Boss – as Ranji Sir is known). This stamp-the-floor song is shown with the titles – which is a deviation from the typical off-takes that Rohit Shetty normally uses.
To me movies must do only one thing: Aaltu faaltu, aayi bala ko tal tu, tension-venshion chod de bhaiyya, ho ja fully faltu. Chennai Express is exactly that. If movies mean this same suspending reality to you, go for this one.