Sunday, February 14, 2010

Review: My Name is Khan

Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol
Director: Karan Johar

What happens when you try to take a leap higher than what one's legs can allow? You obviously fall. With My Name Is Khan, Karan Johar tries his hand at a subject that he is clearly not equipped to handle. But like an overzealous eater who orders too much without judging well his appetite and constitution, Karan decides to go to the radical extreme of the fluffy entertainers he's done so far, and packs in every weighty theme out there. The result is a half-baked film that is neither serious in its tackling of political issues nor entertaining. In fact, MNIK is naively propagandist, made with the single-minded purpose of portraying its lead actor as a messiah for the humankind.

For the kind of epic film that MNIK hopes to be, it had to be emotionally moving and inspiring. The incidents needed to be organically born out of the story, the romance needed to be more rooted and real. This is not the case, as both scriptwriter Shibani Bhatija and Johar indulge in heavy narrative bullying, creating contrived situations to meet their ends. It's almost like these two people smugly assume the audience to be on the same page as them, even when they are not. This is especially true in the second half, where the film's autistic hero, Rizwan is put through all kinds of grueling trials to show him as the paragon of virtue and humanity. So even as all the characters in the film cry buckets seeing him saving katrina victims on television, or go misty-eyed when he finally gets to meet the US President (how cringe-worthy this scene is!), you sit there in the audience feeling bored and non-plussed. The only thing worse than emotionally manipulating your audience is to be caught doing so.

Still,the first half is somewhat tolerable. You never know why SRK has aspergers or what its larger significance in the film is, but the actor works his charm in some of the scenes with Kajol. Their brief courtship and marriage is not a very plausible scenario, but there is something touching about the way Kajol accepts him into her life. She marries him not because she is in love, but perhaps because she believes a man like Rizwan deserves his share of love and happiness. The film is not bad till this point and if this relationship would have been explored further, it might just have made for an interesting story.

But then 9/11 strikes and the film derails completely. There is no depth in the conflicts that arise from hereon. Why would Kajol shun her husband for his religion at such an emotional point in her life? Racism was not born after 9/11. Yes, the situation grew worse, but when a liberated Hindu woman marries a Muslim man, one fairly assumes she she is mentally prepared for the same. In any case, this basis of Rizwan's long journey is unclear and unconvincing. Since the motives are weak, you are not emotionally moved and the film starts to seem incredibly lengthy and tiresome.

While the story itself doesn't quite work, it is the 9/11 and American backdrop that induces a great deal of ennui. It says nothing that has not been said before. We've had Khuda Ke Liye and New York – both superior to MNIK and in America itself there have been several films made on the subject. So why make something on a similar theme when you have nothing new to say?
Again, looking at the amount of English used in the film and the backdrop used, obviously Karan is looking at a global audience. But what can be taken home by any audience in any part of the world from so simplistic a film. It does not even pose the right questions, forget offering solutions.

As for the performances, SRK is earnest and tries to infuse his character with some life. But it's not a role that entirely makes sense, and he's put through some really awkward situations in the film. The actor is one of our most charismatic stars and when he's cast in a good role and film, he's very effective (Chak De India!, Devdas). But in this case, the script lets him down and he must take some blame for green-lighting a project such as this.

Kajol is loud, over-excited and constantly screeching. She is on a different pitch and level from the rest of the film.

Karan, you are great with light stuff or even ones looking seriously at relationships (I think KANK was an interesting failure) , but keep away from the activism. Classic happen, they can't be manufactured.

Stars: **

-Sandhya Iyer


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi sandy i have exactly same views as u.i wish they had kept the movie a love story instead of the muslim for shahrukh khan he acted [ dustin hoffman in rainman and tom hanks from forrest gump]

February 14, 2010 at 5:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is total trash. I am sorry - have been a big fan of your reviews but this is totally out of whack and plain stupid review. I guess this author cannot differentiate between good movies and bad that effectively. It seems you let your love for a star (aamir) and your hatred for others influence what you write. Personal opinions are all fine and dandy but when a journalist reviews a movie as a profession - there should be some honesty and integrity. Its unfortunate that a large audience gets to read misplaced reviews like this.

Now on to the movie. KJO has surpassed himself. If not for the Georgia track - which was plain stupid - this is as realistic a movie that Kjo has made. Full marks to him. The movie is hard hitting and resembles zakhm and saaransh but on a much larger scale. In a sense these movies are 'heavy' to watch and digest. And it needs maturity. Unfortunately as sandy has shown - not all possess maturity in abundance :-)

Kajol was very endearing and I think portrayed her role very very realistically. One can see the chemistry between the costars here and it makes this a sublime experience. As for SRK - what can i say. This performance is comparable to Kamal's in Nayagan. Absolutely out of this world and easily among the top 3 Bollywood performances....

As for the audience - i think most intellegentia will connect to this both in India and abroad. It is a very brave movie to make and kudos to the producers for doing this. It takes lot of guts for a director like Kjo to make a movie like this with SRk and Kajol.
Take a bow Karan. Take a bow SRK for the role of your lifetime. Seldom do movies have an impact. After a Lagaan, TZP and Swades - this one joins the club. 4 stars - (karan if you had cut the georgia track - this would have been a instant classic)

February 14, 2010 at 5:59 AM  
Blogger Sharmila said...

Thanks for another realistic review..:)

February 15, 2010 at 12:39 PM  
Anonymous Vish said...

Nice review. Seems like the movie is not even worth giving stars :).

February 15, 2010 at 9:44 PM  
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February 18, 2010 at 4:20 PM  

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