There’s a thin line between silly and senseless. The gags in Chennai Express, Rohit Shetty’s previous film with Shah Rukh Khan, fell on the silly side. But take this stretch from their new outing, Dilwale. Veer (Varun Dhawan) is in his BMW (the Shah Rukh Khan of cars; in Shetty’s films, cars are stars too), with his pal Sidhu (Varun Sharma). They see Ishita (Kriti Sanon) looking for a lift. Veer wants to give her a lift. Sidhu doesn’t. Veer sighs and gives in. Then, a little way down the road, he says he needs to pee. He asks Sidhu to join him. Sidhu says he doesn’t need to pee. Veer says that once someone begins to pee, it’s easy to join in. Veer pees. Sidhu struggles to pee, then, after Veer’s encouragement, gets into the… flow of things. Veer seizes the opportunity and flees with the car to give Ishita the lift she wanted. There’s probably a way this gag could have come off as silly. But the staging is so indifferent, it’s just… senseless.
It’s hard to think of a recent film more indifferently made than Dilwale. That’s not the same as a badly made movie, which suggests incompetence on various levels. For all its problems, Dilwale is sit-through-able. The star wattage helps. But surely you expect more from a film with Shah Rukh, Kajol and Varun Dhawan than basic sit-through-ablility. The story is a riff on Hum, with Clark Kent-ish Raj (Shah Rukh) having a Superman-like past. Kajol plays Supergirl. That’s the one interesting touch from Shetty. Another filmmaker would have taken the Chopra-Johar route with this pair (and with this title, an obvious nod to the duo’s most legendary hit). Shetty, instead, opts for an action template, and there’s a good twist involving the Kajol character. She’s a woman of steel.
But the follow-up is super-lazy. You can’t have someone being Supergirl in one scene and a love-sick puppy two minutes later. You can’t introduce a drug-kingpin (Boman Irani) villain and then decide the film can carry on quite well without him, thank you very much. You can’t have the leads part over a major misunderstanding and then have this misunderstanding cleared up through a matter-of-fact update by a supporting actor. Every decision in Dilwale screams: I have Shah Rukh and Kajol in my film, so why bother? A few comic bits work, like the scene where someone invents an innocuous history for Raj. Johny Lever goes overboard as only he can, and Sanjay Mishra contributes a juicily hammy turn as a fence who keeps referencing brand names: O mere ghar ki lado… Rolex Rado! The track fits perfectly into a film content to treat its stars as products.
- Chennai Express = see here
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