Chennai Express: This train can be boarded just once

MUMBAI: Shah Rukh Khan, most preferred in romantic films, of which he may have done only a few, is finding it hard to find a slot lately. He has tried his hand at multiple genres recently: Ra.One, a super hero film; Don 2, an action-for-action's-sake film; Jab Tak Hai Jaan, where he plays a larger than life bomb expert. Somehow, he does not seem to have found the right fit. Chennai Express is the outcome of this confusing situation as the film can’t define its genre even after it has run through 143 minutes. Is it a comedy, a road movie, an action movie or a romance? And is it a Hindi or a Tamil movie?

Shah Rukh Khan’s halwai grandfather has passed away and his last wish is that his grandson should immerse his ashes in the sea at Rameshwaram. However, Khan and his friends had plans to holiday in Goa. This assignment comes as a hurdle in their plans. However, Khan’s friends convince him that even if he immersed the ashes at Goa, they would finally end up reaching the sea at Rameshwaram! This is the first warning of what is to come. Since the grandmother plans to see off Khan at the station, he plans to take a south bound train, get off at the first station nearby and join his friends for a road trip to Goa.

Khan spots Deepika Padukone running to catch the train which has started moving and helps her in. He also helps four mean and scary looking guys board the running train. It turns out that Deepika, who is running away from her father who is in a village near Chennai, catches a train going towards her father. The four goons Khan helped board the train are her father’s henchmen, chasing her to take her back to her village. Her father, who is the local don, plans to marry her off to a strongman from another village, Nikitin Dheer against her wishes. That would help him extend his power further.

Producers: Gauri Khan, Karim Morani, Ronnie Screwvala, Siddharth Roy Kapoor.

Director: Rohit Shetty.

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Nikitin Dheer, Sathyaraj, Manorama, Kamini Kaushal, Lekh Tandon.

Deepika blames Khan for her problem. He decides to help her but his attempts are thwarted by the foursome. They are a dangerous lot which they demonstrate first by throwing away Khan’s costly cell phone from the train and later by throwing out the TC. Deepika and Khan communicate through Hindi film songs as if they are singing a duet; the goons couldn’t care less since the things are very much under their control.

Finally, they arrive at her village. But since it is not a scheduled stop, the goons pull the chain and out there, to welcome the boss’ daughter, is a crowd of hundreds. Khan could have continued with his journey but, for whatever reason, he also decides to tag along! Since Deepika does not want to marry Dheer, she introduces Khan as the guy she loves and plans to marry. The son-in-law to be is cheered by the villagers. But Dheer is not the kind to give in so easily. He challenges Khan to a fight the next morning. This is one giant problem for Khan for that is how Dheer compares to Khan in physique. The only way to survive is to escape.

Khan and Deepika plan to escape before the duel starts, but Khan spoils the plan by getting drunk. Still, he steals a bike and manages to get away, only to crash near a police station. The Sikh cop, Mukesh Trivedi, hides him in a safe place which, when he wakes up, turns out to be a smugglers’ dhow heading towards Sri Lanka. Soon the dhow is raided and Khan taken back to the village he had run from.

It is her wedding day when, once again, Khan and Deepika escape, this time to fall in love for real. Khan wants to take her honourably and comes back to her village, to the don, the mob and Dheer. In a sudden burst of enthusiasm he beats up all the goons, armed as well as unarmed and, finally, also takes on Dheer!

Chennai Express is a poor story idea badly developed. The script has no substance and a lot of footage is filled with nothing happening or, in second half, by crowding the footage with three songs almost back-to-back. Except at two or three places, the comedy is pathetic and the jokes are all decades-old PJs. The music score is generally no help and the only well tuned song is Titli... In fact, some songs sound like they have been dubbed from Tamil songs.

The Rohit Shetty touch is missing here; there is not much entertainment to be found, even of the mindless variety. Photography is good. Dialogue is uninspiring. A lot of Tamil is used in dialogue without sub titles which is very curious: there is not much to understand in this film but this shows a disregard for the audience. Editing is slack.

Deepika shines and is the only worthy performer in the film. Khan, sad to say, resorts to buffoonery when not overacting; his fans expect better. Dheer is aptly sinister.

Chennai Express may not generate good word of mouth but, thanks to the Eid weekend release at 3500 screens with multiplexes running 12 to 16 shows, it is sure to amass bumper weekend collections and help avoid a big setback.

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