Warning: May contain a few spoilers.
I am perplexed whether to talk about the movie – My name is Khan or the issue – My name is Khan. I’ve been staring at this blank page for almost 15 minutes now and have written and deleted quite a few introductions to my review coz. I’m still not sure whether to talk about the movie or the issue because the movie is strictly ‘good- not bad’ to say the least but the best part about it is it treads into a sensitive and very relevant issue.
It may not have happened on 9/11 as the movie says, but it did happen somewhere near the turn of the century – this religious polarization of the world. Without getting into the reasons for this happening, one of the results has been that it has become difficult to be a Muslim today. Celebrating holi, lighting lamps or bursting crackers on Diwali, lining up in temples on Shiv-ratri, wearing a saree or salwar kameez, feasting on a turkey etc. can just be seen as enjoyable traditions or customs but keeping a big beard, praying five times a day, wearing a hijab and celebrating Eid by sacrificing a lamb have become subtle symbols of siding with extremism.
And if you have Karan Johar – the Lady Gaga of Bollywood, dealing with this extremely sensitive issue, it sure looks like a very bad idea. Surprisingly though, Karan seems to have finally grown up. Not that I did not enjoy Kuch Kuch Hota Hai but never thought that he could refrain his cheese when it came to serious subjects.
On second base, you again had a potential disaster. Shahrukh Khan, the man who, with every passing day, gets closer to becoming Dev Anand the Second; both of them have two things in common – heart throb status in their 40s and a head that is always at 10 to 6 or 10 past 6. Give him a condition – Asperger’s syndrome and in all probability, his neck could have disconnected from his body and his head could’ve gone out for a walk, all on its own. Again, surprise surprise, it didn’t happen. Actually his condition meant that he could not express emotions and I think that was a neat trick by his director to restrict him.
And then with all the controversy it generated and the initial 5 star reviews which gave the impression that Shahrukh has pulled an Aamir, it was tough to sit and watch the movie without expectations.
All said and done, the movie is … for want of a better word… ‘Not bad’ and it does try to do justice to the issue it represents. After a brief ordinary introduction, Shahrukh as Rizwan in the first half is in brilliant form when, he comes to America and starts selling cosmetic products. There are quite a few similarities with Forrest Gump though, but I didn’t mind it. After all, don’t all autistic conditions look equally cute on screen. His expressions of giggling goofily when being confronted with love are indeed special. Kajol does manage to still look pretty after all these years of being out of action.
The second half however, I thought, lacked something, I can’t put a finger on it precisely though. Yes, there are moments where it is difficult to hold back the tears and the lump in the throat just doesn’t go away but still, I feel the portrayal of the issue could have been a lot better. Kajol, unfortunately seems to have lost the edge. Her rage at her son’s death when she asks Rizwan to leave, does seem a tad unreal. It is Shahrukh who excels with his subdued performance as Rizwan. His speech at the church remembering his son, devoid of any expressions because of his condition, does extract tears and is very hard to watch.
The problem however, with the movie was that you do feel empathy towards the person Rizwan but there is no empathy generated towards the muslim Rizwan. I mean, the tears and the hard to watch moments have nothing to do with the issue the movie claims to portray. The tears flow when he talks of his son but not when he is arrested and tortured in prison. Actually, his naivety in not comprehending the torture does feel overdone coz. though, he was autistic, he wasn’t dumb. I guess, this is where the movie could have been a lot better.
Shankar Ehsan Loy have once again given refreshing music. Though Sajda is the popular track in this album, I loved the rendition of Noor E Khuda by Shankar and Adnan Sami. ‘Tere Naina’ is yet another nice and vibrant track. The music does gel with the movie nicely.
So I guess, the movie isn’t really SRK’s best performance till date as the 5 star reviews suggest (coz. we still have Swades and Chak De), but it is a fair effort and a reasonably good watch. Just don’t expect the movie to provide as much entertainment as the controversy it generated and you’ll be fine.