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.)