Sunday, February 14, 2010

[MNIK REVIEW] : My Name is Khaaan't

So after a thousand fears and a million tears Mr. Johar Jr.'s latest flick 'My Name is Khan' (MNIK), not surprisingly, opened to packed houses across the world on Friday. Being the kind who had already been pushed to the edge of desperation to try and prove my point about this being another molehill of cliches (DH Blog 'My Name is 'Clueless'), I decided to take a deep breathe and plunge into this whirlpool of what would undoubtedly be peppered with large chunks of 'glorified Joharism'. And my O my! I could not have, sadly, been more right. Something I was interestingly disappointed with.

There is no denying that this movie stays clear of some of Johar's popular stereotypical inclusions thus far– gays and humor based on them, unedited ranting by the protagonists (usually the female lead), abundant references to familial unity and previously successful SRK movies, a chatty maasi and a disturbing bouquet of song and dance rituals and so forth. Instead, it steps into more global stereotypes of the 'Umreeki' kind. If there ever was a seriously miscued pro-Muslim agenda based movie, then MNIK is it.

But lets start with the basics. Rizvan Khan (SRK with a serious hangover of Hoffman from 'Rainman' but with neither the legendary touch nor the convincing seriousness) is a man suffering from Asperger's Syndrome. (
It is curious how after 'Taare Zameen Per' almost everyone wants to herald a 'major message' by using the physically and mentally challenged as a protagonist and an unknown disorder to back it up. It disgusts me that these so called 'master story tellers' cannot narrate the same story with a person who is just a common Jack trying to meet the end of the working day. Weird.) He has a clearly secular mother (Wahab in a decent role) who has taught him that there are just either good or bad people in the world. Something, as we all know, just isn't true but then considering the already complicated personality of Rizvan, Mr. Johar decides to dumb it down to 'his level'. Tragic.

He then arrives in You-Yes-Yeah following his bizarrely irreverent brother (Jimmy Shergill in a role that never quite manages to find ground) to sell cosmetics for his company. So far, interestingly, things chug along evenly. Steady storyboard and all that. Bam! Mandira enters (Kajol in her usual indulgent self as evidenced in her groupie's directorial flicks) and things start getting 'Bollywood-ized'. The cliché rain begins. Rizvan almost instantly breaks into 'Tere Naina Tere Naina' and a few frames later asks her to marry him. She, a divorcee with apparently a seriously troubled past, gives him a mundane task (watch the film for this one) so that she may 'consider' marrying a guy she recently met. Even if I looked past the cinematic liberties here, the fact that she actually agrees to marry him raises serious questions about her character's conviction. A single mother who is just moving to a new place in a country like United States might, umm well, think twice before remarrying and that too with, ahem, a person with a clear form of autism. But not Mandira – no no – she is all for it in a blink. Heck, it is even hinted that they have sex on their first night thanks to 'Intercourse for dummies'. Made me think a lot of Indian men probably need that book too.

Now to the nucleus of this tale – 9/11 and its affects on innocent Muslims in the US. Whats that you say? That was almost a decade ago and people might find this theme a tad overused now? Well not according to Mr.J's yarn since we have random rednecks flipping off shopkeepers just because they wear a white cap, we have unnamed yanks smashing windows of desi motel owners and heck, we even have kids at school smashing that 'Paki' kid since his skin is brown. Yaaawn. How many movies have already dealt with this over the last decade? I lose count now.

And so Mr. Khan embarks on this supposedly iconic journey (much like the 'run' Hanks did in Gump which brought the entire nation to him. Remember that?) to meet the Prez and tell him – 'Mr. President. My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist.' And for what? Just because the love of his life – Mandira – told him to. I wonder what he would have done had she told him to go say 'Stop it man! You are making us all look bad!' to Osama bin Laden?

And so during this journey, Khan meets an array of people who apparently don't really have a problem that he is a muslim. The best part of the movie in terms of ridiculousness is when Khan finds himself in a church with a dozen African Americans and tells them ( (in Hindi of course, since it is the second language in all American schools and so everyone there knows it!) that Mandira's son was his 'best friend'. Not one scene existed when the kid seemed remotely interested in what was going on in either his mother's life or with stammering Khan who randomly gifts him shoes for no reason. This is where I lost all possible interest in the rest of it considering the climax became so obvious.

My instincts about this movie being a giant load of cheesy performances and over the top 'Umreeki' reactions were bang on. Not only do we have an American cast just waiting to be salvaged from their racial ignorance by an autistic Indian muslim, but he is also shown as some sort of messiah who becomes an inspiration for other Americans to help their own kind. Any ounce of credibility this story might have managed, gets vaporized at this spot when a crowd lead by his brother and sister-in-law leads a handful of Americans to aid in rescue efforts of a disaster area. The rest of the story is seriously predictable from this point on so I will let you waste your hard earned doe in experiencing this 'magic'.

What aches me most about a movie like MNIK is that Johar decides to voice each and every thought Rizvan gets in his head. This, because he once again assumes his audience are so dumb, that they cant even digest this high school essay of a story. So while we have to put up with SRK's never ending, almost annoying, portrayal of a man with a serious disorder, we also have to contend with Kajol's wide eyed histrionics that oscillate from meaninglessly irrational to just plain absurd. I look around me and find leading websites announcing this as SRK's finest till date and it hurts me. How can they possibly call this a performance that overtakes 'Swades' or 'Chak De'? Is it because this is the first movie where he plays an 'unconventional' hero with a medical condition? Puhleez. Anyone who cites this as the reason isn't qualified to be a reviewer.

Anyway. I was forced to pen my reactions on MNIK only because of the meaningless hype it had created ever since its announcement. If the audience who watches this so called 'movie about peace in Islam' that only highlights racial stereotypes calls it a successful attempt then surely it is a sad day in Indian cinema. I would prefer the movie 'Aamir' ten times more just because it was honest in its statements instead of choosing to design its script based on newspaper articles from a decade ago.

My recommendation – skip MNIK. There are much better films out there that convey the peace of Islam in more mature ways than this.

RATING: 2 out of 5 (1 star to SRK for keeping the hamming to a minimum and 1 star to Johar for spending more than 15 minutes shooting in India.)

3 reflections:

Ebrahim Kabir said...

Loved the review. Felt the same while watching it!

Anonymous said...

Very nicely written blog.... I seriously think Karan Johar should stop making films and get into the business of some cheezy gossip media "creating" hypes and news. He manages to get all the attention that he can get for the crappiest of his movies. And still more bothering is the fact that his movies get over 4 starts from many websites and news papers.

ShaK said...

@Ebrahim - Thank you for the response, friend. I am glad you found the review useful.

@Anon - Thank you, friend. A lot of the 'success' from certain bully camps in B-City comes mainly via unnecessary and overwhelming hype. Its weird since movies that Speilberg and Tarantino make hardly get drummed up in the West yet they go on to become giant blockbusters. Hence, this whole 'dhoom dhadaka' over such a mediocre script is seriously lame. Thanks again for dropping by.