The King Khan is back with one of the most loved ladies of Bollywood by his side and two of the biggest production houses of the world backing his latest prestigious project “My Name Is Khan”. Before the release of the movie, its promos rightly conveyed the fact, that this time it’s not the same glossy and romantic kind of cinema associated with the name of the director Karan Johar. Instead with his present big venture, Karan moves into more serious and different style of film-making which also has a strong message in store, for the current population of the world living dangerously.
And after watching the flick, the most interesting revelation to make is, that in “My Name Is Khan” the two close friends of King Khan, Kajol & Karan have scored well ahead of Shahrukh in all respects. In other words, the movie and its emotional experience entirely belongs to Kajol, for her outstanding performance and Karan, for his unexpectedly hard hitting & thoughtful direction. Yes, Shahrukh is right there in every frame of the movie, giving an undoubtedly hard-worked and effortful performance. But one cannot deny the fact that it’s the character of Kajol and the director’s solid message in the film, which keeps lingering in your mind as you are moving out of the theater.
The movie right away starts off with the already famous scene, where Shahrukh is disrespectfully interrogated at the airport and then keeps on moving into a series of flashbacks about his life story. The first half has a slow pace and is more or less predictable as the viewer already knows the disability feature of Shahrukh’s character and is also bound to expect the romance between the lead pair. Still, the subtle scenes between Shahrukh & Kajol are nicely written and finely executed. Especially the sequences where Shahrukh asks her to marry him and the ones where Khan & Kajol are interacting with the young kid in the family. However the scene where Shahrukh shows Kajol, the city from a hill top is quite similar to the one we have earlier seen in “Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi”. In addition to this, the childhood sequences of Khan’s life in Mumbai lack the required depth and could have been much better. Only Zareena Wahab manages to impress in this particular sequence and all the child artists look like they are deliberately ‘acting’.
The real action starts post intermission, which also leads to major glitches in the screenplay. The sequences where Shahrukh is travelling through various places, meeting variety of people with different backgrounds is a bit lengthy and seems to be out of the place. This particular part is also highly inspired from Tom Hank’s “Forrest Gump”. Actually as the main emphasis shifts onto the theme of meeting the President, the film takes an unexpected turn and goes over the top to some extent. The un-necessary focus on media coverage and political references takes away the emotional essence of the story, which makes the viewer a little restless and uninterested. Moreover, with Kajol coming in only few small scenes in the last hour of the movie, the overall impact of the solid theme diminishes, which could have been much more strong and effective.
To be precise there are three strong merits in the movie.
1. One is the amazingly natural and highly expressive performance by the one & only Kajol. It will be a great loss to our Industry if she is willing to do only one or two films in 5-10 years. Kajol indisputably delivers another bright milestone act of her career in MNIK. In fact I would like to rate Kajol’s emotional scene with her son after the tragic incident, as one of best ever tragedy scenes in Hindi Films till date. The sequence reminded me of an equally great hospital scene of “Sharaabi” featuring Amitabh Bachchan and Om Prakash together.
2. Second is the director Karan Johar, who surprisingly returns with a more realistic, dark and controversial subject, completely in contrast with all of his previous projects. It is indeed a worth praising act from Karan, who strongly makes a statement with MNIK that he is willing to learn and change with the changing times and has got the ability to make such thought provoking films which can at-least try to bring some change in our currently suicidal society.
3. Third and the most important merit of the movie is its solid and hard-hitting message to the world that “Everyone in a particular religion or community cannot and should not be punished for the inhuman crimes committed by a few people of the same origin.” The message comes out loud and clear as the end credits start rolling and I hope it is able to bring at-least a small change somewhere in the entire burning world.
Coming back to Shahrukh Khan and his portrayal of an autistic personality of Rizwan Khan. The hard work is clearly visible and the effort is quite admirable. Shahrukh no doubt comes up with a noticeable performance as The Khan. But truly speaking, there are undeniable glimpses of Dustin Hoffman & Sean Penn, clearly visible in his autistic act. Khan’s performance will surely impress millions of his Bollywood fans who love watching only Hindi Films. But for the cinema lovers who are well familiar with the similar acts done by Dustin Hoffman in “Rainman”, Sean Penn in “I am Sam” and Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump”……., Shahrukh has simply done a good job. He visibly tries hard to move away from all the above references and does come up with a fine performance. But the impact of all the above three names in their respective roles is so huge that it unintentionally leads you to a comparison. In fact the moment you see Shahrukh in the first scene itself, it makes your remember both Dustin Hoffman and Sean Penn together.
Interestingly few years back, Hrithik Roshan also played a special character on the similar lines in “Koi Mil Gaya”. His performance in the said movie was also highly inspired from Tom Hank’s act in “Forrest Gump”. But there Hrithik could easily move on to a different path of his own as his character was of a grown up man still having the mind of a small child. The child angle in his character, simply allowed him to add some of his own mannerisms and variations into the act.
But in “My Name Is Khan”, Shahrukh doesn’t get the required scope of moving on to a completely new path deviating away from all the above mentioned inspirational angles. Besides this, the character of Rizwan Khan, also fails to establish that emotional connect with the viewers which is a must in a movie based on autistic individuals. On the contrary, it’s the character of Kajol, with whom the viewers can relate to and feel connected. This is purely the fault of the script writers as they are not able to raise the emotional quotient of the movie to the desired levels.
In addition to this, the writing also shows some major faults in the screenplay, which should have been taken care of by the director. For instance, I am still not able to figure out that which Hindu-Muslim Riots happened in 1983 in Mumbai. In a realistic movie written around real life incidents, you have to get the dates correct for the right feel. Secondly, in the few initial scenes of the movie, it’s shown that Shahrukh has a serious problem with Yellow color and he becomes upset at the site of this color. Yet in the second half he is shown holding a yellow cardboard in his hand, on which it’s written “Repair Almost Anything” and also travels on a truck full of pumpkins (probably) of yellow kind of color shade. And on top of all, in the flood sequences both Shahrukh and Karan simply forget that they have some sort of autism to deal with in their movie.
Lastly in the final hour of the movie, everything just goes on happening so easily, which completely contradicts the realistic feel of the movie and lessens its final impact on the viewer. In simple words, Karan returns to his Feel Good kind of cinema in the end and delivers a happy climax once again as per his trademark style. Another question which came to my mind while watching the movie was that why Karan approved of making “Kurbaan” on a similar subject of 9/11 impact on Muslims in America, when he was himself making MNIK on the same subject?
Anyway, apart from the impressive Kajol act, there are worth mentioning performances from the supporting cast too. Jimmy Shergil as Shahrukh's elder brother excels in his few scenes and so does Sonya Jehan who plays Jimmy’s wife. Parveen Dabbas shines as a Sikh who opts for cutting his hair after 9/11 in order to survive the hate attacks. Both Vinay Pathak and Zareena Wahab make their presence felt in their few scenes.
Cinematography is great with some new unexplored locations looking fresh on screen. But I found Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s music lacking the melody part once again. The soundtrack is not enjoyable enough if compared to Karan’s previous projects. The songs sound fine while watching the film, but they don’t inspire you to buy the Original Soundtrack CDs. However, Karan very intelligently, uses only few full length songs in the movie and rest of them are just there as a part of the background music.
Summing up, “My Name Is Khan” is surely one of those few good movies which are capable of raising a question and starting a debate in the society. Many of the viewers might miss the regular glossy and romantic feature of a Shahrukh-Karan film and may find it a little preachy too. But MNIK is a clear indication of changing times in Bollywood and should be taken in good spirits. Hats off to Karan Johar, for moving away from his sure shot success path and giving us a thought provoking project, pointing towards a serious issue.
I strongly believe that after reaching a cult status in the entertainment industry, it’s the moral duty of an actor or director to make films which can contribute towards a better society. And with “My Name Is Khan” both Karan and Shahrukh have made their contribution in this particular direction. It’s not a perfect piece of art but a laudable effort indeed from Dharma Productions.
Rating : 3 / 5