It is an old joke in my family, that when I was seven, the song tu shayar hai, main teri shayari, from the movie Saajan propelled me out of the bed like a rocket, onto the floor and I entertained my close family members with some interesting dance moves. Let’s leave it at that for now. All I can say is that Madhuri Dixit is an amazing performer.
What followed after that event were a series of embarrassing mentions of the sequence of events that led me to jump on the floor (a dive as some might remember). It surely made a great story. But the flip side was that it embedded in me a fear I cannot come to terms with even as an adult. I can barely dance. I am just not comfortable with it. I think the last time I shaked a leg or two was at our wedding reception at Shiva’s in Mountain View. And whenever someone asks me to join the party (I have no clue why a party is not complete without dance), I feel like I am at the foothills of Mt Fuji and I have been asked to climb it – NOW. Phew! The thought of it makes me gasp.
But why this confession after almost 23 years. Because I think there is some sort of shame I started associating with songs of “that” nature after “that” event. Lately I had started associating a similar sort of disgrace with Shah Rukh Khan. And he rightfully deserves some of it. But not all of it. I started judging his movies without even watching them. Just because he is Shah Rukh and he is 40 and he is an attention grabbing super star who is not as modest as some other not so successful celebrities, I dislike him. But after watching Chennai Express, I have decoupled the two Shah Rukhs. There is him as a person with all the problems I see in him. And there is him as an entertainer. And the entertainer in him begs respect and admiration and even applause (for the dance moves he can master at this age)..
I watched Chennai Express with my Mom last night. It was very entertaining and I felt very relaxed after watching the movie. Surprised? Here is what happened: the movie started and I put on my critical glasses and started pointing out all the silly gimmicks in the first twenty minutes. It was so unreal, so over done and so cheap. But that was the first twenty minutes. As the train took off, so did my hang ups.
Honestly, I was ashamed that I had come to watch a Shah Rukh movie in a hall on a Sunday. I was so ashamed that I was trying to get Agam to come share my shame and tried to convince him to come watch it with me. But in twenty minutes, Shah Rukh convinced me. He said “Honey, I am not here to tickle your brain. Go watch Inception if you want that. But I can tickle you. So drop all baggage and come for the ride.”
I made a conscious effort to unload my shame and the baggage I was carrying with me when I walked into the hall, and I felt light in a few minutes. And after that I enjoyed the movie. I enjoyed all his gimmicks. I pointed out to my Mom how he loves spreading his arms wide and showing off his biceps while he wooes the heroine. I enjoyed his eye movements, especially when he overdoes them. And he did look cute. I laughed throughout the movie and shed a tear as well. Bottom line is that the movie helped me disconnect from any sort of known contexts. It was as refreshing as a glass of lassi on a hot and sunny afternoon. I felt so happy after watching it.
What I discovered yesterday is that cinema means different things to different people and it is very, very difficult to keep all your stakeholders happy. And there are shades within the same stakeholder too. As an example, I enjoyed Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine as much as I enjoyed Chennai Express. But for different reasons. I disliked Shah Rukh in Jab Tak Hai Jaan and adored him in Chennai Express. Again for different reasons.
Cinema is not always trying to be the finest form of art. It is and should always try to be the finest form of entertainment. And I had the two mixed up. Why is Kai Po Che and Bombay Talkies good cinema and Chennai Express or Om Shanti Om, bad cinema. You define your cinema and I will define mine. As long as we are all entertained, why judge? Why tag? Why defame? Why be harsh?
Bottomline is I loved Chennai Express and I will watch it again on Netflix. For now, Shah Rukh.. get set and PO!!