Written by: Shibani Bathija with dialogue by Shibani Bathija & Niranjan Iyengar
Directed by: Karan Johar
Starring: Shahrukh Khan, Kajol, Jimmy Shergill, Sonya Jehan, Yuvaan Makaar
Widge’s Note: I think everybody knows that I have a fondness for Bollywood films because there’s just nothing else like them. Apart from some exceptions, sadly, I can’t keep up with the output of the Indian movie industry like I would like, so I’ve called in some reinforcements. So please welcome our new Bollywood movie reviewer, Adarsh. Hailing from India and currently working here stateside, he’s going to check in from time to time with some Indian movie picks. Which I’m excited as hell about. Take it away, Adarsh…
This is Karan Johar’s fourth movie as a director–his previous three have been blockbusters all starring Shah Rukh Khan and two of them have had Kajol as lead actress. As a result, the expectations of this movie are sky high, particularly as these three are working together after a gap of nearly a decade. The subject of My Name is Khan is definitely the most different, realistic and risky they have undertaken as a team. Realistic and different mainly because their films before have all been typical Bollywood “larger than life” romantic movies. Risky because the audience for a movie with this theme is usually limited, but with Khan’s star power (capable of pulling in the initial audiences, which could grow if the material is Good) it’s a gamble that should pay off. I could as well call this Bollywood’s answer to Forrest Gump!
[ad#longpost]The story is about Rizwan Khan (Khan), who has Asperger’s Syndrome. He comes to San Francisco with his brother’s (Shergill) help and works for him as a salesman. He meets single mother Mandira (Kajol) who is impressed with his simplicity and straightforwardness and gets along well with him. Cupid eventually strikes both and they get married and lead a happy life. This lasts until 9/11, throwing things out of gear for Rizwan and his family due to his religion. Friends become foes and their life turns more miserable with each passing moment. A sudden turn of events makes their relationship sour and Rizwan takes up the extraordinary task of meeting the President of the United States. Why he wants to do this and whether or not he succeeds forms the main part of the story.
The emotional quotient of the movie is pretty high. The film has a great social message which is aptly put forward. The plight of the Christians and Non-Christians (i.e. Muslims) in the U.S. after 9/11 is a very delicate subject, and here it’s been handled pretty well. As Rizwan’s mother points out in the movie: there are only two kinds of people, one who do good deeds and others who do bad and both these kinds of people are there everywhere, and it has nothing to do with religion, caste or creed. This is explored in the movie through the journey Rizwan undertakes.
Direction is top notch. Johar has done a great job of getting the best out of his actors. The cinematography by Ravi K. Chandran is excellent. The music . Cinematography again is excellent. The Music handled by trio Shankar-Eshaan-Loy is again pleasing, though all the tracks have their trimmed version and are mostly played as a background score (a new trend which is slowly catching up with Bollywood flicks, giving them a more realistic look).
Coming to the performances, Khan delivers the performance of his career and the movie is his show all the way. As he is present on screen for almost 95% of the running time it was necessary he understood the character very well and got under Rizwan’s skin. He does exactly that and does not disappoint. This should bring him quite a few awards.
Kajol is as good as ever; she breathes life into her character of Mandira. She acts and looks great as the single mother fighting for justice. She has less than half the screen time as Khan but delivers a great performance. All the supporting artists do a great job as well. Vinay Pathak excels in his cameo as the Gujarati Motel Owner.
The movie tends to get preachy in places and also tends to get Bollywood-ish (especially in the cyclone part of the script, which i personally felt to be a hiccup in an otherwise great movie). But nevertheless, it drives home the point intended and shows the triumph of human spirit over everything else.
It’s a great movie to watch and surely a trendsetter, heralding a different kind of cinematic experience in Bollywood.