The main purpose of a film is to entertain. Period. All other elements come later. ‘Appreciation of the art form’, ‘nuances of storytelling’ and ‘fine display of emotions’ is all well and good and makes for good topics for an academic thesis, but I highly doubt that the makers of Chennai Express would have really bothered to give that a second… or even first thought!
Chennai Express is not a great film; I wouldn’t call it a good film even. The success of the film is simply a result of a well-executed, aggressive marketing campaign. Khan along with his team travelled far and wide to dance with fans promoting the film. A day before its release, I was flipping through channels and I was genuinely amazed. The film was being publicized on every relevant channel-- product collaborations (through Shahrukh Khan’s numerous brand endorsements), all over the widespread Disney UTV network (also the producers of the film), digital and social media (including a Chennai Express game app) -- there was no way anyone could miss it. The makers made sure each and every person across all walks of life and from every strata of society would watch this film and they did. (Good case study material for top business schools maybe?)
The film is average. Had it not been for the publicity, it would have been just another passable experience one would catch on cable TV (even with Khan’s presence). I don’t know what to really share about the story, as there is none. Khan proves that he is a pretty perfect version of who he is and hence, there is no scope for change/improvement. In fact, his character in this film is more or less like a caricature of himself from the 90s. His dialogue around the beginning of the film after he stretches out his hand from the moving train to help the girl board (in true Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge style)—“actually mei ye pehle kar chuka hoon” ( I’ve done this before) pretty much describes his part in the entire film—something that he’s done a gazillion times before.
Deepika Padukone excels in her portrayal of the South Indian beauty with brains. She simply solidifies her position as one of the top actresses in the country with this film. Another good thing about the film is the setting (beautifully set in a South Indian milieu—a welcome change from the heavy dose of Bollywood films primarily centered around Delhi / North India), and a bold move in terms of language-- almost 40 percent of the film is actually in Tamil (although that never really gets in the way).
Some months ago I was reading an interview of Director Rohit Shetty, where he was asked why he made ‘mindless comedies’? And he replied by sharing an experience. Apparently at a film festival, as he was watching a Monica Bellucci starrer, the film disturbed and annoyed him so much that he had to leave. According to him, films are all about entertainment. Their main purpose is to entertain people, make them feel good, get them to enjoy themselves and have a good time.
Now, I do agree with this statement, to an extent. It’s not that I’m saying films like Ship of Theseus or Dev D or films coming out of Anurag Kashyap or Vishal Bhardwaj’s stable are bad. They’re wonderful. But Indian cinema has now established its image in the world as producer of films that are loud, colorful, with lots of songs and dance and fun.
So why criticize our core product, which is a film like Chennai Express. I’d say, don’t pay attention to lack of story, screenplay, logic and other such elements. As long as you’re having a good time with friends and family, it’s worth the price of the ticket, right?
You’ve got this middle aged superstar acting the goat. A hot chick with dimples to die for. Good music and action scenes that you can really laugh at. The way I look at it, one way or another, you will get into it.
So appreciate the lungi dance and just po with it.