Film Fridays: Chennai Express (2013)



WARNING: If you have never seen a Shahrukh Khan film, do NOT start with this one. At a minimum, you should watch DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge) before watching this movie. That way, you will appreciate the inside jokes told through songs.

Chennai Express is the highest-grossing Bollywood movie of all time with almost INR3.95 billion (US$66 million) in receipts. The media and marketing machine that is Shahrukh Khan created immense excitement for the film with spectacular results.

The film tells a story of a Mumbai man, Rahul, who vows to take his grandfather’s ashes to a remote village in Tamil Nadu. His real plan is to pretend to take the Chennai Express to Chennai and get off at Kalyan station instead. From there, he will head to Goa with his friends to celebrate his 40th birthday. Needless to say, that plan goes horribly wrong in all the right ways. Rahul meets Meena (played by Deepika Padukone) on the Chennai Express, loses his reasonably priced Nokia Lumia 420, and is caught up in Meena’s attempt to thwart her arranged marriage to a local thug.

While Rahul is immediately infatuated with Meena, she is less than impressed by him, and he must spend most of the movie ingratiating himself to her. Eventually, after Rahul climbs a grueling 300 steps to a temple while carrying her in his arms, Meena falls for him.

The film contains all the typical Bollywood dance numbers and action sequences plus many inside jokes from SRK’s earlier films. The plot of this film is almost entirely indebted to DDLJ,  SRK’s most famous romantic comedy. So much so, that at the end, I wanted to shout: “Jao, Simran, Jao!” as Meena’s father lets her go to Rahul.

Overall, the entertainment and production values for the film are high, but the film feels stale in many ways, not the least of which is the romance between actors with a 20-year age gap. Yes, SRK is just as gorgeous as always, but the advances made to a woman so much younger than he seem more creepy than romantic. It’s like Tom Cruise hooking up with Katie Holmes.

While the film plays off the North-South cultural differences that exist, those differences remain largely unexplored in any serious way. They are pushed aside in the interest of moving the plot to its logical and foregone conclusion. From the moment we see Meena run for the train, and Rahul catch her, we know how this story will end. The director, Rohit Shetty, does not disappoint.

“Jao! Meena! Jao!”


[usr 3]


The item number “1, 2, 3, 4, get on the dance floor” features South Indian-inspired dance moves.

The “Lungi dance” number appears during the end credits. It’s a tribute to South Indian actor/producer Rajinikanth. This video features rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh.

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