In his ordinary life, Rahul (Shahrukh Khan) is a 40-year old bachelor who still lives with his grandparents in Mumbai, India. After his grandfather’s death on his 100th birthday, Rahul decides to join his friends in Goa for some “fun”. His grandmother asks him to fulfill his grandfather’s last request by immersing his ashes at Rameshwaram.
Rahul hops the first train going to South India and plans to join his friends at the next railway station. Rahul forgets his grandfather’s ashes on the train and hops back on to retrieve them. However, before he can get off again, the train starts and Rahul, kind soul that he is, is delayed while he helps a girl and four men on to the train.
The girl, Meenamma (Deepika Padukone), has run away from home to avoid an unwanted marriage. The four men are goons of a powerful Don who also is the girl’s father. Rahul is forced to accompany them to their village when he witnesses the ticket collector being tossed from the train by one of the goons.
Shahrukh and Deepika have fabulous comic timing. In the scene where Meenamma teases Rahul about his age, the twinkle in her eye and his outrage as he becomes aware of what she’s just said looks completely genuine.
Some of the other comedic bits that added to my enjoyment of the movie: the songs and other movie references, the Nokia Lumina 920 gratuitous product placement scene and the snarky way Deepika says her lines.
Meenamma and Rahul converse in famous Hindi songs with modified song lyrics to keep their conversations private. When the villainous fiancé starts singing as well, it’s just icing on the cake.
All I know about South India I learned from Bollywood and Tollywood, the Hindi language and Telugu language movie industries respectively.
I loved the fact that Deepika was dressed in langavoni, traditional “southern” dress for unmarried girls, throughout the movie.
Other “southern” tropes that felt like old friends and comforted me with their presence: the sickle-carrying goons, the curled tongue and neck slashing gesture that one of the goons makes to Rahul and the long line of Sumo's that make the procession back to Meenamma’s home.
The item song “1 2 3 4 Get on the dance floor” with Priyamani is going on my workout playlist as is the title song, “Chennai Express”.
“Titli” is dreamy, falling-in-love song I’ve been humming since the first time I heard it.
“Main Kashmir tu Kanyakumri” in which Shahrukh rocks a lungi. Squee.
And “Tera Rastaa Chodu Na” is a haunting, beautiful accompaniment to Rahul’s decision.
“Lungi Dance”, a tribute to Rajnikanth, was a fun surprise during the credits.
The only “southern” thing I missed was Prakash Raj. He would have completed the movie.
On a personal note: One, the first few scenes are so reminiscent of the RNBDJ fan fiction I wrote about Suri’s family, I squealed when I saw it on screen.
Two, on our trip to India last winter, we went to see the fifth highest waterfall in India, Dudhsagar Waterfalls. We only saw it from ground level but our guide pointed out the bridge the train travels on and the fact that we missed the shooting on the bridge by about three days. Seeing the aerial view in the movie brought back wonderful memories of our time in Goa and India.
Since I’d only watched the cringe-worthy “All the Best” by the director, Rohit Shetty, I was surprised how much I enjoyed this one. As a masala romantic comedy, this works well. However, if you are expecting a deep, profound, moving movie, you are in the wrong theater. Leave your brain at the door and enjoy the ride that is Chennai Express.