Che-Naahi! Express

The Power of Halwai — review of Chennai Express

So yes, I watched my first film in theaters after four years. Or five, maybe. The last one was Quantum Of Solace, which I watched thanks to my wife’s cousins who wanted to watch a movie. Any movie. It fit the requirement quite well — and that’s about it. Today, it was thanks to my wife — one of the biggest SRK fans. I went in with a lot of trepidation. How does one tolerate three hours of one Mr. Shetty — who makes David Dhawan look like a quality film maker, and one Mr. Khan — who given such directors, is like a maniac on steroids.


Power of ‘common man’. The common man is in front with the hot girl. In the background are all the uncommon species.

But, my fears were proved entirely unwarranted. Not that the movie wasn’t everything I feared it to be (it was more!). But after first few minutes, the fear kind of became irrelevant. And what got me really excited was the mouth-watering prospect that this was a critics movie.

Yes, you heard it right. This is no movie for the masses, mind you. This is a movie made for the critics. In first few minutes you’d have those fun hating snobs salivating at their mouths at the prospect of a perfect 10 — for reviewing the film, that is.

Still, how do you review a movie like Chennai Express? Seriously, what can one say about an entirely meaningless piece of bad film-making where even lame jokes are a relief from the acute pain one constantly suffers? Also there is a more fundamental question of why do you review a movie like Chennai Express? Those who read reviews of such movies are already not interested in watching it (unless it’s for academic interest of knowing just how bad is it, anyway?) And the masses, are already watching it. And liking it, I’ve been told.

Like SRK’s character (named Rahul in an especially inspirational moment, I’m sure) in the movie keeps repeating:

“Don’t underestimate the power of common man”

One wonders if it’s Rohit Shetty telling himself that it’s okay to make such mindless movies because the power of common man – aka the masses – will take them into 100 Cr club. But then there is a subtext to that line in the movie itself.

“Don’t underestimate the power of … Halwai …”

Rohit Shetty is the ultimate halwai (and I don’t mean to use it in a caste-ist  insult) – selling sweets full of refined sugar. And he is right. The halwais always walk away to the bank smiling.

So here is the summary:


  1. It does not have a story, so you don’t have to keep wondering what is happening
  2. Half of the dialogues are in Tamil (presumably), so if you don’t know Tamil, you’re spared half of them!
  3. SRK has finally got what he wanted, so hopefully he’ll be happier person in public, for SRK in loser mode is obnoxious (some say he’s obnoxious, period, but I kind of like him when he’s not acting)
  4. Deepika has shown that she can breath some life  even in this uninspired  and lifeless saga — which means we may see more of her and less of Katrina the mannequin.
  5. You could potentially learn Tamil (assuming what you learn is Tamil)


  1. Can’t think of any — the story’s perfect (ly missing), the music’s perfect (ly missing), the acting is perfect (ly missing), the dialogues — especially the ones in Tamil — are perfect, the direction is, well, you get the drift.

Rating: Are you kidding me?

I was wrong after all. It’s not a critic’s movie. One can’t even write an interesting review of this banal stuff. I guess, it must be for the masses. But then, I guess, I’ll have to underestimate the common man.

It’s worked for Rohit Shetty, so it could work for me.

PS: I guess the film is not entirely without layers. Rohit Shetty while making an ostensibly mindless film, is quite mindful of the other layer — where he uses the film to prove the power of common man. The common man, triumphs in the film, and films triumph proves the power of common man. In the film, watching in the background, in every scene are tons of common men who do what common men do best: they watch. Essentially, Rohit Shetty has relegated the (real) common man in the film to the job of watchers for whom reality is the movie, while outside of the movie, he is relegating the common man to the job of watchers for whom movie is the reality — or an escape from it. So Rohit Shetty has masterfully created this mirrored duality which only those who don’t want to watch helplessly can notice — but then I suspect he really wants them to be aware of the duality — so in a rather Borgesian way, he’s out-thought the uncommon men (in the sense that they’re decidedly not masses because they do not like the movie) by giving them exactly what they want on a level on which they would want it. Ha! And you thought it’s a brainless entertainment. It is if you don’t think it is, and it is not if you do. Either ways, he’s got you, but he’s not interested as he’s hurrying to the bank laughing, the Bollywood Halwai.

PS2: For years we have seen complaints that Bollywood denigrates the south-Indians, making fun of them, caricatures them, because Bollywood is run by the north-Indians. But then it took a Shetty to out-do all of those north-Indians and create such a crude caricature that even Northerners will feel it’s not so subtle.


4 thoughts on “The Power of Halwai — review of Chennai Express

  1. Shobhna says:

    I would say that for a light hearted movie it was good. The sound effects and the actions were almost synchronised. 4/10 if I was marking it !! The scenery was lovely and I needed to see something that looks green in India considering my infrequent visits to India that I can count on one hand that have been marred with very bad experiences and a scenery that is dusty, brown, parched and over-crowded. So, yes, the scenery was lovely and I love trains so for me that was a plus.
    As for the old jokes in the movie: I have heard them before, but it could be that most of audience have not, considering the audience I was surrounded with was young families with wailing, hyper-active sproglets and teens who could not be separated from their mobiles even for the duration of the movie. So, maybe for them, the jokes were great since they might not have heard them before !!
    Ah, and I forgot. I am an NRI so like to keep a bit of an unrealistic image of India in my mind’s eye….one that is green and clean. Specially clean. (funny that, you never see any rubbish on the streets in the movies !)

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