Reviewing the Reviews: Chennai Express gets 2-2.5 stars

12 Aug,2013

By Deepa Gahlot


Chennai Express

Director: Rohit Shetty

Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Satyaraj and others:


This is the kind of film that even the media agrees is critic-proof. No matter how awful a Rohit Shetty film may be, his success rate and Shah Rukh Khan’s stardom is enough to guarantee a massive opening. Add to the aggressive marketing and huge number of prints released, and it would take a miracle of another kind to lose on a gamble this big.


Still, reviews were scathing, 2 and 2.5 star ratings, except for a couple of regulars prone to flattery. Deepika Padukone was the one who came out smelling of roses, and she was universally appreciated– faux accent and all.


Anupama Chopra of Hindustan Times wrote, “Chennai Express plays neither to Rohit’s strengths nor to Shah Rukh’s. It’s a strangely sloppy mishmash of cheesy humour, half-hearted romance, half-baked emotion and head-banging action. The film is filled with gigantic men whose size functions as a punch line. Yes, some of it is funny. The locations are beautiful. And I enjoyed watching Deepika Padukone as Meena, the don’s daughter with the thick accent, who meets Rahul on Chennai Express and turns his life upside down. Padukone’s spirited performance – she even makes that accent attractive – helps to lift the film.


But, mostly, Chennai Express is a slog. Rohit’s movies have never been about plot or character or performances. His films have only one function: to entertain you by whatever means necessary. But sadly a film specifically designed not to bore does exactly that.”


Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN rightly called it a bloated vanity project. “Some films are hard to make sense of. Others are just nonsense. Chennai Express, directed by Rohit Shetty, ticks both boxes. More than a quarter of the film is in Tamil, and hence incomprehensible if you’re unfamiliar with the language. The rest is a stew of puerile humor, lazy stereotypes, and way-over-the-top acting from a star who appears to be trying too hard.Shah Rukh Khan, who’s provided enough evidence to convince us that he can do comedy effortlessly (remember Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, DDLJ, and Main Hoon Na?), spends a chunk of this film referencing his earlier hits, and bouncing off the walls like the Energizer bunny. Could he possibly be overworking himself to compensate for the film’s tired writing? Because it’s clear from Chennai Express that Shetty has launched an elaborate expedition with a plot so thin, it could give a paper dosa a run for its money.”


Sukanya Verma of tried to be kind to SRK. “What stays put through and through is SRK’s incredible charisma and gusto as he lightens the screen with his unabashed buffoonery, visibly enjoying his role as entertainer while lampooning it just the same.  His effervescence is met with dazzling reciprocation in Deepika Padukone’s ‘Meena Washing Powder Meena’ who gets top billing in the opening credits. There’s so much control in the stunner’s performances since the last couple of films. And her dynamic comic timing even against faulty sensibilities is part of that evolution. Finally, did I get my ten laughs? Well, I came *this* close. By the time the count had reached seven, Chennai Express decided to shift tracks from droll comedy to dreadful drama.”


Shubhra Gupta of Indian Express commented, “This could have been a good caper, in which madcap characters race around the countryside with other madcap characters in hot pursuit. Especially when Shah Rukh Khan is so willingly sending himself up as only he can, with such a knowing nudge-and-wink that you smile despite yourself. “Rahul”, he introduces himself to Meenamaa (Padukone): “naam toh nahin suna hoga”. You know you are being set up, and yet you can’t help being amused. The amusement lasts only momentarily, and you are left feeling sorry at the waste.”


Nandini Ramnath of Mint gave it more thought that it deserved. “Social observation isn’t Shetty’s forte, to be sure, and is nigh impossible in a movie whose dialogue writers are the impoverished punsters Sajid-Farhad. Shetty does work hard to be true to the story setting. He packs the movie with a largely Tamilian cast, drawn from a pool of extras and television talent, although he squanders the potential of a seasoned actor like Sathyaraj. Tamil folk and film music influences can be heard on the soundtrack, while the choreography attempts to replicate the energy of song-and-dance sequences in Tamil movies. There’s even a “lungi dance” at the end to name-check Bollywood’s tribute to the reigning god of Tamil cinema, Rajinikanth, but the entire endeavour proves to be as ersatz as Padukone’s Tamil accent.”


Karan Anshuman of Mumbai Mirror wrote, “3500 local prints. 700 overseas prints. The widest Indian release ever. Production budget a shade under 100 crores. 6.75 crore paid preview collections on a Thursday, the highest ever. 100 crore over the weekend? 200+ crore lifetime? 2nd place for 3 Idiots? It’s troubling that, forget the producers, even the audience is interested in attending a math class rather than watch a movie for what it is.  An individual opinion in such critic-proof films is like a smashed up secondary car in a Rohit Shetty convoy: it amuses momentarily. Still, when you watch Chennai Express (and you will – because you like SRK, or liked Golmaal and Singham, or simply think it’ll make for a clever Facebook update), no harm in being prepared.”


Saibal Chatterjee of gave it a surprising 3 stars. “It’s a somewhat long ride that occasionally teeters on the edge of tedium, but it certainly isn’t all wrong. Parts of Chennai Express, propelled by a spirit of inspired lunacy that holds the no-holds-barred action comedy in good stead, is markedly better than the sum total of the film. If only it had enough steam to sustain its momentum all the way to the very end, it would probably have been far more fun to watch. But do hop aboard. This Express is designed for quite a crazy carousel. If you hang in there and do not allow the many distractions and diversions along the way throw you off track, you might actually find yourself getting into the swing of things, especially in the first half. Some of the stops en route might seem rather unnecessary and overstretched. In fact, not all the platforms that Chennai Express chugs into are uniformly inviting. But the thunderous rhythm of the voyage does generate some genuinely funny gags.  Chennai Express warms up pretty quickly and delivers exactly what you would expect from a Rohit Shetty film: runaway entertainment.”


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