Make no mistake, schmucks.
* My Name is Khan is not in the Forrest Gump league (even if the first person narrative style going back years into the life story of our hero Rizwan Khan is reminiscent of Forrest’s and even if there is a Jenny in the Hindi film).
* No, My Name is Khan is certainly not in the Rain Man class either (even if our hero is an autistic character exhibiting quirky behavior).
At best, My Name is Khan is a desi chutiya take on the two Hollywood legends within the framework of a post 9/11 society in the U.S.
But, but a desi chutiya version of Forrest Gump/Rain Man within the 9/11 framework is any day better than what Shahrukh ‘Pakistan is a great neighbor‘ Khan has delivered in recent junk like Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Billu Barber or Chak De India.
Narrated in flashback interspersed with the current, a style we’ve now seen twice in two days, My Name is Khan juggles three seemingly immiscible elements: Asperger’s Syndrome (a subset of autism), love and 9/11.
It’s the tension wrought by the collision of these three forces that forms the crux of this film.
In more capable hands, the tension and interplay of the three powerful elements could well have turned My Name is Khan into a classic.
But in the hands of a mediocre troika (director Karan Johar and lead stars Shahrukh Khan and Kajol) one should be merely content that the movie is not an unwatchable disaster.
Ask any more only at the peril of your intelligence being questioned.
Neither separately nor in their interplay are the three elements handled with an elan that could have set the My Name is Khan kite soaring. And that is a shame.
Not So Gripping Story
In its essence, My Name is Khan is the story of an autistic person Rizwan Khan (played of course by Shahrukh Khan) falling in love with a Hindu beautician Mandira (Kajol) and how 9/11 impinges harshly upon their lives in the U.S.
Although a gazillion times less annoying than the usual Bollywood Friday drivel like De Dana Dan or Veer, the My Name is Khan plot has a jerky feel not unlike a derailment on the orgasm train moments before you reach the destination!
For instance, the course of both falling in love or breaking up is slipshod. What Mandira sees in Rizwan is hard to comprehend.
However painful the loss of a loved one is, will that turn you off against another loved one so much so that you cast the other person out of your life?
Then the American response to Muslims is stereotypically addressed in hostile terms, an anomaly given that most Muslims in the U.S. do not suffer serious or any discrimination and in a million years would never ever want to return to their hovels in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran, India, Egypt or elsewhere.
And even allowing for suspension of disbelief, it’s a wild stretch to think of a socially handicapped autistic immigrant giving succor to a hurricane-ravaged area in the U.S.!
Also, the core My Name is Khan and I am not a terrorist message of the film that all Muslims are not terrorists has been so flogged to death by media pundits in America for the last nine years that it fails to strike a chord.
Maybe, it’d have resonated with us in 2002 or 2003 but, alas, not in 2010.
Two Mediocre Chutiyas
Shahrukh Khan is no Dustin Hoffman and certainly no Tom Hanks. Of that, you can be sure after watching this fella coast along with just average performances in movie after movie for over two decades.
In My Name is Khan, Shahrukh Khan does not stray far from his hallmark mediocrity.
His acting in a demanding role in My Name is Khan often seems contrived and he most certainly does not set the screen on fire. Simply because Shahrukh Khan lacks that kind of talent.
And to expect miracles from this fella is to expect the impossible.
The intensity and verisimilitude that great actors like Tom Hanks or Dustin Hoffman can bring forth to their performances and immortalize their characters is not in the Shahrukh DNA. Period.
Given our low expectation from SRK, we’re grateful he showed up but did not mess up totally in My Name is Khan. We’d go as far as to say this is one of SRK’s better films in the last few years.
Neither does the presence of Kajol in this film send a thrill down your spine. For far too long, this midget has earned an unsullied reputation for being head and shoulders above the rest of the crop of Bollywood actresses.
And still in My Name is Khan Kajol does not awe you with a jaw-dropping performance. Chalta hai, we’d say if you found us in a generous mood.
But in an industry lately much diminished by execrable freaks like Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor and Sameera Reddy, we’ll admit sotto voce we’re mighty grateful for Kajol.
Together, the SRK-Kajol pair was alright but we didn’t get the ‘they are made for each other’ DDLJ feeling.
Now, for the Other Stuff
The photography of either San Francisco or the other parts of the country that Rizwan Khan passes through during his months-long quest to meet the President is no feast for the eyes.
Music, a must-have for Bollywood films, falls short in My Name is Khan. Hard to remember a single song or tune a few hours after we stepped out of the hall.
Folks, if you are at a loose end this weekend and coins jingle endlessly in your pocket, by all means watch this movie.
Just don’t expect a mind-blowing experience despite all the unrequited hype.
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