Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Chennai Express – Doesn’t reach its destination
The film contains all the stereotypes that exist about those who live south of the Vindhyas, but narrated by someone who doesn’t live there. A South Indian film for those not living in the South, so to speak.
There are Kathakali dancers (from Kerala) in a song sequence, characters calling each other “Garu” (a Telugu term) in a movie that is supposed to be set in Tamil Nadu village, and references to eating idlis, vadas and dosas.
But the stereotyping and lack of authenticity are the least of the film’s problems.
Shetty’s flimsy story centres around a 40-year-old man who lives in a Mumbai mansion and runs a successful business, but has apparently not been on enough trips to Goa that he wants to run off to its sandy beaches the day his grandfather dies.
He gets on the “Chennai Express” with the intention of getting down at the next station and proceed towards Goa, but the arrival of Meenamma (Deepika Padukone) throws his plans haywire.
Meenamma tells him she is running away from her father (but still gets on a train that takes her straight to her father’s village) because he wants to marry her off. Through a series of mishaps, Rahul ends up accompanying her to the village and immediately finds himself in trouble.
He has to face Tangaballi (Nikitin Dheer), a towering giant of a man who wants to marry Meenamma. Of course, the inevitable happens – Rahul and Meenamma fall in love and he has to fight the world to claim her. In between, there are songs with inane lyrics and dialogue that could have been be written by a five-year-old.
One of the crucial ingredients missing is pace, which is essential for a “masala” film like this one. Shetty doesn’t even manage to keep the laughs coming at regular intervals. He uses self-deprecating humour and doffs his hat to the southern style of filmmaking. But he doesn’t achieve the desired result in both.
Shetty also uses a lot of Tamil dialogue in the film – which is great for the tone of the film but leaves the audience clueless many times.
If Shetty’s work in the past is anything to go by, “Chennai Express” wasn’t going to be an authentic film, but the least he could have done was provide a steady flow of laughs so that viewers forget the flaws.
But from mentioning the price of an expensive phone that a character is carrying, to Deepika’s pronounced South Indian accent, even the humour in the film jars.
Of the cast, both Padukone and Khan throw themselves into the part, fake accents and all. If the film does work, it is mainly because of Khan’s inherent charm, but otherwise there is nothing to write home about.
Towards the second half of the film, as proceedings were trudging along, a frustrated audience member asked audibly: “Hasn’t Rameswaram come yet?” That sums up “Chennai Express” perfectly – a film that doesn’t reach its destination.
(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)