Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
My Name is Khan: Gimmicky, average cinema
There is no easy way to say this. In spite of the hype surrounding it and for all the solidarity being expressed and the many, many hours of time and energy being spent tweeting and talking about it — “My Name is Khan” is a very average, ordinary film that goes as haywire as the debate surrounding it has gone.
Subjects such as racial biases, the aftermath of 9/11 and war on terror are dicey topics to handle in real life, let alone on celluloid, and director Karan Johar falls in the same trap as films like “New York” and his own production “Kurbaan” — he oversimplifies the issue and overstates his message.
The film tells the story of Rizwan Khan, a man afflicted with Asperger’s Syndrome, a type of autism which allows him to lead a relatively normal life. However, he has problems understanding complex issues and cannot express emotions like love or sorrow as normal people can.
Brought up in a suburb of Mumbai by his mother (Zarina Wahab), Khan moves to the U.S. after her death, to be with his brother (Jimmy Shergill).
There he meets Mandira (Kajol), an effervescent single mother, who takes an instant liking to Khan. They get married and focus on being good parents to her son Sameer.
However, when the country is hit by 9/11 and racial crime in its aftermath, their family too is shattered. Hoping to make amends, Khan sets off in search of the U.S. president, believing that if he meets him, all will be okay in his little world.
Johar is clearly out of his depth here. The film is on a large scale and beautifully shot, but the story doesn’t live up to even half of that. He cannot seem to decide whether he is making a love story, telling the story of a man’s journey or making a statement on the many biases that pervaded the U.S. after 9/11.
Words like jihad, 9/11 and al Qaeda are thrown around without any context. Khan’s actions seem contrived and totally out of line with the story.
A lot of the supposed emotional moments seem gimmicky, and have too much melodrama. As a result, the acting suffers and even though Khan puts in a restrained performance as Rizwan Khan, Kajol fails to make an impact, coming off as shrill and overbearing at times.
The music is also below par and even though there are some moments of magic, they are very few and far between.
Any film that underestimates its audiences and dumbs down its content is letting itself in for a failure. Coming as it does from people of such calibre as Karan Johar, Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, “My Name is Khan” is a huge disappointment.