After 'Om Shanti Om' and 'Ra.One', this is the third of Khan's films where he plays the regional card to generate humor. Nonetheless, his role in 'Chennai Express' is less inane; at least, he doesn't eat spaghetti with curds as in Ra.One. As with any Rohit Shetty film, there are cars flying before they blow up into pieces.
Rahul, naam toh suna hoga, as SRK is called in many of his films, is required to travel to Rameshwaram to immerse his grandfather's ashes. While he plans to get off the train mid-way and scoot with his friends to Goa, fate has other plans for him. Incidentally he helps Meena (Deepika Padukone) and a few goons to get onboard a running train in DDLJ style, played repeatedly to make it hilarious.
Following the funnily remixed Antakshari sessions with Meena, attempting to converse in Hindi so that the Tamilian goons don't understand it, Rahul understands that she is being Kidnapped. It turns out that Meena's father Durgeshwara Azhagusundaram (Sathyaraj) is a Don and wants his daughter to marry another goon, Tangaballi (Nikitin Dheer) and all that stands in between is the common man, err, Rahul.
The story is extremely weak and relies upon SRK's histrionics to make it funny. The many parodies to Khan's old films and popular dialogs evokes laugher. His popular pose with outstretched arms now comes with the self-depricating line "Don't underestimate the power of the common man". It is axiomatic not to expect logic from its wafer-thin plot made like a formulaic Telugu/ Tamil commercial blockbuster.
Obviously, being a high budget film, the sets and locales look impressive on screen. Dudhsagar falls, portrayed as the train stop for Meena's village is shown in its monsoon majesty. The locations for Tamil Nadu have mostly been re-created in Panchgani & Wai with some scenes filmed in Munnar and a lake in Kerala where the village set makes it look idyllic. Visually, there is nothing to complain about.
The film's weakest link is Deepika's awful accent. She sounds neither like a Tamilian she portrays nor her native Kannada accent which is evident in television interviews. To confirm the awfulness, I did check up with a few Tamilians who watched this film and each of them expressed disgust at the way she mouthed those lines. Adding to the mess was her overdone facial expression, must have been a rub-off from SRK.
Other actors like Sathyaraj or Nikitin Dheer, who played the towering villain in Jodhaa Akbar did a reasonable job. The goons are very typical of any of Bollywood's typecast portrayal of south Indians as being dark and fat. But, going by the trend of south-style flicks raking in the moolah and being lapped up so lovingly by movie going public, Bollywood junta has lost its bragging rights about being better than southern films.
The film's humor is worthy of a special mention. Along with parodies of SRK's movies, which we have now got used to in many films, the song-humor is well done. One joke that stands out is when Deepika innocently asks SRK if he were fifty years old; and when he expresses shock, she asks if he is actually older than that!
Music is about average. Songs like 'Titli', 'Kashmir Main Tu Kanyakumari' and the title track are bearable. Fast paced '1-2-3-4 Get on the Dance Floor' could potentially join the Tamil flavored 'Chinta Ta Chita Chita' or 'Dhinka Chika' as dance floor favorites.
Verdict: An over-the-top film by SRK as usual with tons of overacting. The only thing that saves the film is the fact that it doesn't give you a headache and you can get out of the movie hall smiling, either mocking at the stupidity of the film or having enjoyed jokes in a brain-dead mode. Commercially though, the film has been successful.
Rating 4/10: Over-The-Top Shah Rukh Khan minus the headache