Chennai Express

Directed by: Rohit Shetty

Starring: Deepika Padukone, Shah Rukh Khan

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The concept  of transporting someone or something  that feels familiar into alien surroundings often throws up interesting results and Chennal Express (CE) is no exception to this rule. Taking the quintessential Hindi film lover-man (he is a forty-something after all) out of his comfort zone and into a world which has different ideals makes for some fun moments, especially in the first half – I liked the idea of singing intentions to the sound of popular film songs as a plot device, in-joke and quotable moment all rolled into one.

The problem I had with CE was the meandering nature of the screenplay. Whilst the first half has some purpose and direction, the second half turns into a hot mess of sorts with songs shoved in back to back, a hasty tying up of loose ends and a violent climax. This is disappointing as the first half sets up so many interesting strands – Rahul’s mid-life crisis, why Meena doesn’t want to get married, the culture clash between North and South – none of these are fully resolved or explored and could have given CE the emotional anchor that it desperately needs.

Thankfully, the performances are good. SRK slips on the romantic hero cape with ease and will drive his fans wild with his mannerisms and dialogue delivery. I felt that he really needed much more to do than he was given and that even though his commitment and energy never wanes, it is not utilized to its maximum potential. Padukone fares much better, despite having a one dimensional role – she gives Meena a physicality that works very well and maintains a very understated presence that is in stark contrast to SRK’s full wattage star power. I also thought the chemistry between the two stars definitely gives the film more leverage than it would otherwise have.

Strangely, CE reminded me of Kites which had a very similar premise and also ends up with a hot mess of a second half. But whilst CE has the more simplified concept, a little bit of refinement would have gone a long way without compromising on the mass appeal this film clearly has in abundance. Though it is fun and entertaining, CE failed to engage me in a way I had hoped it would which is a shame because there is so much to venture into here but instead, CE takes the express route. A one time watch at most, how I wish CE had focused more on the journey than the destination.

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