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Rohit Shetty & Shah Rukh Khan's CHENNAI EXPRESS (2013) – Movie Review in English

The media buzz concerning CHENNAI EXPRESS is sensational. At least in India. The "highest grossing movie ever" (even bigger than 3 IDIOTS?) is a veritable blockbuster and the comments on social media platforms like Twitter go head over heals: who, when, where and how often has been to the cinema. Some have already seen the movie multiple times. Ram Gopal Varma for example claims to having been in movietemples for five times – and there is little reason to doubt him. Well, maybe the film is indeed getting better the more often you see it, like Shah Rukh Khan posted on his Twitter account. Room for improvement though is plentiful in this half-baked and uneven romantic comedy that is indeed pretty funny and charming at first, but then drags itself – after the intermission – rather boringly to a really violent finale. And CHENNAI EXPRESS is, at least, half an hour too long.

The film is just like one would expect it to be: it depicts beautiful people in beautiful landscapes, it portrays love conflicts, problematises grave subjects like the dichotomy of arranged marriages versus individualism, and then there is that daughter running away from the patriarchal father. And it is just very unfortunate for the hero that the pretty girl, whom he all too happy lends a helping hand as she jumps on the running train, is the daughter of a crime boss. And he, SRK, - symbolically – has to take the blame himself for all the trouble he gets in: for he reaches out (in good faith and unknowingly) even for the pursuers of the young lady, mistaking them for regular travellers that would miss the train aswell. Shortly thereafter, he feels the machetes of the Tamil gangsters ​​around his neck. And because he is the kind of guy that can't say No! to anybody, he soon has to impersonate the lover of the young lady, willing to marry her. Which means: trouble all the more. But then, hey!, they get to know each other better, and just everything falls into place...

Rohit Shetty, director of the impeccable and beautifully hysterical over-the-top-action film Singham, which was totally convincing, delivers with CHENNAI EXPRESS a completely standardized and superficial romance for the masses. Interesting cinematography? There is hardly any in this movie. Shah Rukh Khan, who again plays his usual character of the faithfully naïve and kind-hearted mother's favorite, that is indeed quite clever, has a strong tendency to completely overacting his role and gets very silly at times. He cuts his grimaces as if being in an eighties high school TV movie, which is sometimes quite embarrassing. The action, however, on which I had high hopes, is most of the times redundant and  forgettable. The chase-sequencess have got not that tight rhythm (in contrast to the sometimes exquisite song&dance-parts!) and almost none of the power that were so great and gripping in some of SINGHAM's finest scenes. For example in the first car-chase turned motorcyle-chase-sequence, it is not the clever cutting that holds a tight grip of the audience's attention, but the brutal incident of the pursuer on the motorcycle getting almost knocked off the bike, then over the handlebar so that he almost breaks his backbone – so here you get brutality instead of sophistication; it's almost the same understanding of "action" in the final battle with the rival looking like a tamil version of Hulk, who is two meters tall (and broad), a fierce muscle man, aswell a son of a Don and selected as Deepika Padukones husband. No doubt, their fathers have a financial interest in this bond and the will to extend their power. It is violence in extremes what you will find in this fight – SRK gets worked up heavily, with fist of steel and bloody machete blades – but the hero stands his ground. And that's not all of the mess. What does this movie actually tell us, but that the one that hits hardest gets the girl? Yes, SRK turns into a man and fights for what he believes is good, but are the methods and means really that uninportant? He should have left the scene with a smile and gotten the girl anyway... but, you know, then there would not have been a final fight.

To what extent CHENNAI EXPRESS' depiction of the rural village in contrast to the city as a metropolis might be a conservative backlash in contemporary Hindi cinema, I dare not say. But in this movie, like in SINGHAM, the clan lords reign in smaller communities just near and outside the city, where they govern their own world. They even have got their own train stations, namely where they want them to be - where the gangsters pull the emergency brake. Is there anybody complaining when 200 criminals armed with machetes claim this to be a regular platform of an imagined train station? And concerning the acting: what is Shah Rukh Khan's understanding of his characters, at times, where he repeatedly stages himself as a postmodern, self-reflexive character that is self-conscious and aware of this staging-process? Does SRK actually even play a new role or character or does he simply re-enact an aspect of a former figure, maybe cleverly combined into a motley pastiche? Questions that remain, when you will have forgotten the movie for a long time ...


PS: Please forgive me for my bad english, for I'm obviously no native speaker - and I didn't want to bother my friends, who are no doubt a lot better in this than I am. Maybe there will be more reviews in english from now on, but that depends on my time and... errr... my laziness. If I could attract more readers to the site that would be some motivation - for I don't know yet, how often the google-translation is being used. Since I installed it though, there are definitely more people from outside of the EU finding their way to Schneeland. So, I hope it's readable at least, and some of you might even enjoy it. Thanks for reading my stuff!


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