Ready Steady Poda

Chennai Express hit theatres this week, on the occasion formerly celebrated as SUV Nikaal, Bhai Ka Pikchurr Aayela Hai. The release brought joy to millions, because it meant that Shahrukh would finally stop with the zillion promotions that made the Ra.One marketing blitz look like a Baba Bangali poster.

Now here’s the problem with talking about Rohit Shetty films: Your criticism doesn’t matter, just like his scripts. I’ll make all the jokes I want, knowing full well that Rohit Shetty will read them on a golden toilet while pooping diamonds. (Although I don’t think these guys read anyone apart from the venerable Mr. Adarsh, who probably described the film as “DROOLTASTIC AMAZEBALLS ROHIT BHARO MAANG MERI BHARO!”)

Chennai Express runs for 143 minutes, where each minute feels like an hour spent with your nose wedged into a Dadar armpit. Thankfully Deepika looks smashing, whether she’s in a saree or a lungi. And because of that, I’ll be reminded of her every time I see a lungi, which will make things awkward between me and my nariyalwala.

The story follows a perfectly logical sequence of events: First, Shahrukh appears on screen. Well, not all of him. Just his spongy fefda being squeezed. There’s tar oozing out, along with a carton of cigarettes that he probably inhaled whole. Very realistic performance.

Shahrukh plays the 40-year-old Rahul, who tells us that he is single partly because his Dadaji blocked all his attempts at sexytime. The last time an old guy did that to Shahrukh, Aishwarya became a ghost and we witnessed the debut of Uday Chopra’s nipples.

Dadaji pops it pretty soon, and Dadi tells Rahul that he wanted his ashes to be scattered at Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu (pronounced ‘Kozhikode’). But this clashes with Rahul’s Goa plan, so he tricks Dadi into believing that he’s going to Rameshwaram by getting on – in his words – “koi bhi South India jaane wali train”. That train will also be taken by Deepika, or Meena, the daughter of a don called Durgeshwara Azhagusundaram (pronounced ‘Ooty’), who had run off to Mumbai to escape an arranged marriage to upcoming don, Tangaballi (pronounced ‘Giant protein shake in a kurta’).

The two meet in what is a funny take on the much-flogged DDLJ train sequence, giving you just a sliver of hope. Five seconds later, hope shoots itself in the face as SRK goes full hamtard, and you realise that this is the worst thing to have happened to the Indian Railways since Naxalites and IRCTC.

There’s a dazzling display of comic wizardry throughout the film. Much of it is based on linguistic mix-ups that you’ve never heard before. For example, what happens after Shahrukh is asked something that sounds like, “Tamil teri maa?”:

a) He spreads his arms

b) He reflects on what his films have come to, weeps, and spreads his arms

c) He says, “Meri maa ke baare mein kya bola?”, causing waves of laughter to erupt from people whose parents are siblings.

At one point, Shahrukh meets a midget wandering about in the forest, as if he were a Tamil Tyrion (Of House Lannistiyer. Sigil: Green card.) He communicates by making tock-tock noises, and this is hilarious in the Shettyverse because the Shettyverse is in Malana.

There’s also a great moment when Shahrukh lends Deepika his phone – a Lumia – but not without going off on a spiel about its awesome features, like the fact that it’s not a Blackberry. If Dharavi kids had pooled in and offered money, they could’ve gotten Shahrukh to belt out a Tum Toh Thehre Pardesi on the train, complete with clacking stones and TB.

This is the kind of achievement that some PPT-loving brand manager will flaunt for years to come. It’ll definitely go in his matrimonial ad:

WANTED: Fair, super-educated but homely girl for marketing manager who made the biggest superstar on the planet hawk his brand in the middle of a movie. DOWRY SAJA KE RAKHNA.

Chennai Express is supposedly an homage to DDLJ, in the same way that getting AIDS is an homage to Freddie Mercury. Some of the inside jokes are about films like Baazigar and Dil Se – reminders of what once set Khan apart from everyone. At almost 500 a ticket, this Shettyfication of Khan should come with a free drink or six. Or as a philosopher down South once said, “Apdi pode pode pode.”

(Note: This is my HT column dated 11th Aug 2013.)

We Are The Youth of The Nation. Like, Totally.

So ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’ made a 100+ crores this week, of which 98.3 came from Ranbir fans who have heartgasms every time he does something awesome, such as appear on screen. The rest came from the coffers of The Gentleman’s Society For Appreciation of Slow-Mo Champagne Spray On Deepika.

YJHD is the story of Kabir aka Bunny, who sets out to forge his own path, makes mistakes and discovers true love in the end. This is different from Ranbir in Wake Up Sid, where he sets out to forge his own path, makes mistakes and discovers true love in the end, and of course, that was nothing like Rockstar, where he sets out to forge his own path and then puts Nargis Fakhri in a coma by having sex with her. (Although with her range of expressions, it’s hard to tell exactly when she went comatose.)

This isn’t to say that YJHD is a terrible film. It’s not. It’s basic “dal-chawal”, except it’s being described in the way five-star hotels do it, i.e. “Steamed fine long grain white rice hand-picked in the emerald green lap of the Vindhyas, accompanied by a golden lentil soup that was gently simmered over the smouldering kisses of angels.”

It says a lot when, in a youth film, the only character that makes a mark is the father (played endearingly by Farooque Shaikh.) I just wanted to reach out and give the poor man a hug. The last time I felt so bad for Farooque Shaikh was when David Dhawan dropped a giant, steaming Pile No.1 on Chashme Buddoor.

There are currently two major entities that try and define the youth of India. One is Chetan Bhagat, whose characters exist in easily marketable groups and talk in the most badly grammar you will finding anywhere Orkut roxxx. The second is Bollywood, which, on occasion, does a great job, and on another occasion, tried to convince us that Shahrukh was a college student by dressing him up in a blue-green Polo Sport condom.

One film that worked for my generation was Dil Chahta Hai, which was slick and funny enough for us to ignore the fact that Aamir Khan had been celebrating the end of college since QSQT in 1988. Then there was Lakshya, where Hrithik Roshan did a fine job of portraying angst, especially when his jiggly facial muscles kicked in. Seriously, just look at any Hrithik film. At some point during intense emotional scenes, a continuous wave of ripples starts dancing across his face, as if he just swallowed a vibrator.

There are some tropes that Bollywood loves to use. For example, the modern-yet-sufficiently-pious-for-family-crowd heroine, who loves going to the temple. Deepika is super religious for the first half of YJHD, only to have that trait disappear in the second half, probably because she realised that she was a hottie and did not want to be godblocked by religion. Kajol sang bhajans to impress Amrish Puri in DDLJ, which was weird:

Kajol: Dad, I want to travel around Europe with my girlfriends.

Dad: That’s crazy. Now go spend the rest of your life with some gaonwala that you’ve never met.

Kajol: <insert bhajan>

Dad: Aww. Mogambo melt hua. Okay, go. Just don’t sleep with strangers. That’s what arranged marriages are for.

Then there’s the concept of eternal, undying love, which young characters in Bollywood seem to possess in copious amounts. We fell for it as kids, but it doesn’t hold up now. Again, take DDLJ – one of the most romantic films ever, about an aimless rich kid who falls for Ms. Goody Two Chappals even though he barely knows her, chases her across continents, befriends her family and finally, some blood and punches later, asks for her hand. This is also the story of Darr.

And hey, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai fans, if you stay hung up on your college friend for ten years, then you should just marry your basketball. Even during YJHD, when the rest of the theatre was ooh-ing and aah-ing over Ranbir’s decision to put the brakes on his dream to marry Deepika, people like me were thinking, “OK, so they’re happy now, but soon enough, he’ll start resenting her. He’ll feel stifled, they’ll grow distant, one or both of them will have affairs and then end up battling each other over curtains and shared lip gloss.”

Then again, people like me aren’t really the target audience for such films. YJHD will end up being DCH-meets-DDLJ for a lot of people, which is natural. Meanwhile, we’ll be judging silently in the corner. It’s easy to spot us. We’re the ones in Polo Sport.

(Note: This is my HT humour column dated 9th June 2013.)