Tag Archives: SRK

Movie Review: My Name Is Khan (2010)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at iTunes
Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

The message of My Name Is Khan is a laudable one: good and bad people are identifiable by their actions, not by characteristics like race or religion. But a laudable message can’t excuse the fact that My Name Is Khan just doesn’t work.

MNIK‘s protagonist is Rizvan Khan (Shahrukh Khan), an Indian Muslim with Asperger syndrome. Asperger’s is an autism spectrum disorder usually characterized by physical awkwardness and trouble forming emotional connections with other people. As a child,  Rizvan’s special needs demand almost constant attention from his mother, alienating his younger brother, Zakir.

As an adult, Rizvan is forced to move to San Francisco to live with Zakir (Jimmy Shergill) after their mother dies. Zakir makes Rizvan work as a traveling cosmetics salesman, an odd assignment for a guy who doesn’t make eye contact and who’s frightened by loud noises and the color yellow. Rizvan is capable of navigating San Francisco, but he’s better at following instructions than he is at improvising.

Rizvan develops a crush on Mandira (Kajol), a divorced hairdresser with a young son named Sameer. Rizvan eventually wins over Mandira with his persistence, and they marry. They live happily for several years until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Tragedy strikes the family, and Mandira — a Hindu — tells Rizvan that she regrets marrying a Muslim man. She tells him to go away until he can convince the President of The United States that he’s not a terrorist just because his last name is Khan. Rizvan takes Mandira’s command literally and sets off to find the president.

For a number of reasons, MNIK just doesn’t work. American filmgoers won’t be able to ignore the things the movie gets wrong about America. While the non-Indian American actors in the movie are actually pretty good (most Hindi films hire terrible American actors), characters don’t speak in proper American colloquialisms. Phrases like “piss off” and “bloody Paki” are British insults, not American insults.

The movie shows footage of a turban-wearing Sikh man targeted by thugs who mistake him for an Arab, establishing correctly that many Americans can’t differentiate between people of Indian, Middle Eastern and northern African origin. But the movie later attributes a beating to the fact that the character’s last name is Khan, a Muslim surname. This defies the movie’s own conclusions about American worldliness. Most Americans don’t associate the name Khan with Islam; they associate it with Star Trek.

MNIK‘s weakest element is the romance between Rizvan and Mandira. The movie spends a long time establishing that Rizvan, despite certain competencies, isn’t able to live independently. He’s not able to be a full partner to Mandira, and she often treats him the same as she does her son. It’s hard to understand why she agreed to marry him.

But, given that they are married, it’s incomprehensible that Mandira would be so cruel as to send Rizvan on a fool’s errand by himself. That she doesn’t feel bad about it makes her heartless, and the excuses the film offers on her behalf don’t hold water.

The movie tries to explain how Rizvan is able to execute a cross-country trek that spans years, but I don’t buy it. The movie doesn’t make it clear exactly how long Rizvan’s journey takes, but it would be almost impossible for anyone to execute, let alone someone coping with Asperger’s.

My Name Is Khan is watchable, but it ultimately fails by overreaching. It might have worked as a story about a couple dealing with the challenges of one partner’s Asperger syndrome. It might have worked as a story about a man who wants to show America that not all Muslims are terrorists. But compressing both stories into one movie is an impossible task, even for superstars like SRK and Kajol.

*AMC theaters list the movie’s runtime as 2 hrs. 25 min. It’s closer to 2 hrs. 35 min., plus 10 minutes of previews. Also, the movie has an MPAA rating of PG-13, though there’s nothing in the film’s content to warrant a rating stronger than PG.

Opening February 12: My Name Is Khan

The first major Bollywood release of 2010 is upon us. My Name Is Khan features Shahrukh Khan as Rizvan Khan, an Indian immigrant with Asperger syndrome living in San Fransisco. Kajol plays Rizvan’s love interest, Mandira. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 jeopardize their happiness, and Rizvan undertakes a cross-country journey to prove his love for Mandira.

I’m always interested in perspectives on 9/11 from filmmakers outside of the U.S., as in the 2009 Hindi films New York and Kurbaan. I’m a bit concerned about MNIK‘s surface similarities to Forrest Gump (a guy with social problems on a cross-country journey), a movie I wasn’t crazy about. But I have faith in SRK and Kajol to give spectacular performances that will win me over.

My Name Is Khan opens in the Chicago area on Friday, February 12 at the AMC Loews Pipers Alley 4 in Chicago, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville. MNIK has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 25 min. Based on the amount of time the AMC theaters are allowing between showings (usually a reliable indicator), I suspect the movie’s actual runtime is longer than that.

The only other Hindi movie showing in the Chicago area this weekend is 3 Idiots, which continues for its eighth week at the South Barrington 30. The movie has earned $6,463,622 in U.S. theaters thus far.

Striker departs theaters after one week. I don’t have figures on how much it earned in U.S. theaters, but American YouTube viewers have rented the movie just 1,283 times since its worldwide release last Friday. I hope Striker gets more attention when it releases on DVD, because it’s terrific.

Other Indian films playing in the Chicago area this weekend include Body Guard (Malayalam), Kedi (Telugu) and Thamizh Padam (Tamil) at the Golf Glen 5. Kedi is also showing at Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove.

Movie Review: Dulha Mil Gaya (2010)

1.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

When a character chooses to do something he or she wouldn’t normally do, that’s character development. When an outside force makes a character do something he or she wouldn’t normally do, that’s plot-driven development. By confusing the two, Dulha Mil Gaya keeps its two selfish protagonists from becoming the heroes they’re supposed to become.

Dulha Mil Gaya (“I Found a Groom”) is primarily about Shimmer and Donsai, a model and a playboy enjoying the single life in Trinidad. Shimmer (Sushmita Sen) has a wealthy but absent boyfriend she has no intention of marrying. Donsai (Fardeen Khan) is a serial heartbreaker who lives off of his recently-deceased father’s fortune.

Donsai’s lawyer finds a clause in Dad’s will stating that Donsai needs to marry a particular Punjabi girl he’s never met within 15 days or he’ll lose his money.

When Donsai and the lawyer meet the girl in Punjab, she’s shy, conservatively dressed and wearing glasses; there is undoubtedly a makeover scene in her future. The girl, Samarpreet (Ishita Sharma), consents to wed, and she and Donsai get a quickie courtroom marriage. He leaves on a “business trip,” promising to come back for her. He never does.

After three months with no contact, apart from a monthly check in the mail, Samarpreet flies to Trinidad, where she sees Donsai carousing with another woman. Distraught, she runs into Shimmer, who agrees to help, out of a small degree of compassion and a larger desire to cheat Donsai out of his yacht.

The movie proceeds as expected. Samarpreet gets madeover and reborn as Samara, and Donsai pursues her. While Samarpreet is just happy to finally have his attention, I wanted to tear my hair out. Donsai may not know he’s pursuing his wife, but the audience does. So why are we supposed to root for him to get with Samara?

When (spoiler alert) Donsai finally remembers that he ditched a wife in Punjab, it’s only because his butler finds out about it and makes him feel guilty. Donsai doesn’t independently realize that he’s a louse. Even after the predictable “happy ending”, I couldn’t help but feel that Samarpreet got cheated out of a relationship with someone who really loved her.

Shimmer’s love story is just as unsatisfying. Her boyfriend, PRG (played in an extended cameo by Shahrukh Khan), shows up for the last 50 minutes of the movie, announcing his arrival with something like, “Everyone’s been talking about me, and now I’m finally here.” We understand that casting SRK was a stunt; you don’t have to point it out to us.

PRG is a version of his “Shahrukh Khan” character: charming, brave and irresistible. Shimmer puts off committing to him until Samarpreet gives her the stock “It’s time to give up your career and start having babies” speech. As with Donsai, Shimmer wouldn’t have chosen to marry PRG unless someone else told her to.

In addition to the problem of mistaking plot development for character development, Dulha Mil Gaya stereotypes gay men with the character Lotus, Shimmer’s butler. He wears a peach-colored suit and flounces about, exaggeratedly calling everyone “darling.” It’s not until halfway through the movie that he gets to deliver dialog without affectation.

It’s a shame that the only Hindi movie I’ve seen that portrays gays as real people is Dostana, where two straight guys pretend to be gay. They do so by being themselves, but professing to prefer romantic relationships with men rather than women. You know, like real gay people.

Note: Dulha Mil Gaya‘s listed runtime of 1 hr. 48 min. is wrong. It’s more like 2 hrs. 35 min.

Opening February 13: Billu Barber

Shahrukh Khan’s latest film, Billu Barber, opens in U.S. theaters on Friday, February 13. SRK has a cameo role as a movie star who interrupts the life of a barber named Billu (Irrfan Khan).

In the Chicago area, Billu Barber is scheduled to run at the AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville and the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, which is also carrying over Luck By Chance for a third week.