So one of the first things Maribou and I noticed when we were watching Chennai Express was its opening disclaimer: “Any mention of a community, language or region in this film is not intended to inflict contempt at any point. The film must therefore, be viewed as purely a non-commenting source of harmless entertainment not designed to hurt or disdain an individual or community.”
This flashed by in, like, less than two seconds so I had to pause and rewind it to read it again.
So that makes me wonder what kind of movies we could get away with if we had a disclaimer like that one.
Anyway, we settled in and watched Chennai Express. I want to say that this was my first full Bollywood movie. I’ve walked through the room when Maribou was watching them, from time to time, but I’d never actually sat down to watch one for myself. The first thing that I noticed was that Shah Rukh Khan was so handsome that it’s kind of silly. The second thing was that Sathyaraj Deepika Padukone is so unworldly gorgeous that it’s even more silly. After those two things sunk in, I sat back and got on the proverbial train.
One thing the movie does is have characters that wander between English, Hindi, and Tamil. So they’ll be speaking a sentence in Hindi and close with something like “Count on it!” Or, more often, begin a conversation in English, change over to Hindi for a heated exchange, then back to English. (Or vice-versa.)
The closest thing that I can think of to compare it to would be a Canadian movie set in Quebec and Ottawa where the main characters jump back and forth between French and English as the mood strikes them (that reminds me, have you seen Bon Cop Bad Cop? You should, it’s pretty good).
All that to say, this movie will probably make you feel like you ought to be more cosmopolitan as you sit there reading the subtitles.
Anyway, it does what it can to fill up the generic “Bollywood” Bingo card as quickly as it can. Wide helicopter shots, people breaking into song in order to have a conversation, amazing costumes, dance scenes, costume changes into even more amazing costumes, costume changes in the middle of a dance scene, and colors… oh the gorgeous colors. During one scene set in the flower district, I sat there thinking “my gosh, this is a really nice television and I know for a fact that it’s turning this amazing scene into a bland mélange of reddish-orange.”
Now, it didn’t have a “sari in the rain” scene but… you know. It’s a family film.
As for the plot itself, you’ve got a hapless handsome middle-aged guy who, for various reasons, never got married and now he’s finally going out into the world on his own! Well, after he dumps his grandfather’s ashes in the Rameswaram river. He doesn’t *WANT* to do this and tries to not do it but, hey, the best way to meet your fate is to try to avoid it, right (they come out and mention this trope a handful of times) and he meets a gorgeous girl who, it turns out, is nothing but trouble, daughter of a Mafia Don (she’s engaged to a guy approximately the size of a Humvee), he falls in love, gives a handful of speeches, and gets into a fight scene that, seriously, you’d think would have resulted in a most men crumpling after the first punch. All that to say, you’ve probably seen this movie before (starring Jackie Chan).
Now, googling it online, I understand that the critics hated it for being a boring rehash of the actor’s previous films, the director’s previous films, and pretty much all of the previous films that were made by the industry.
Which, if you ask me, makes it a great entry point for someone who hasn’t seen a Bollywood movie before. Feel free to watch it with the kids. The naughtiest moment is when the hero complains that his life “sucks”. If you think that you can weather that scene, gather the family around and enjoy a surprising romp.
And understand that this movie isn’t even considered one of the good Bollywood ones.
So… what are you reading and/or watching?