Kaali (Sharukh) and Meera (Kajol) fall in love. Kaali tells Meera he is a gangster, son of don Randhir (Vinod Khanna). Meera tells Kaali she is an artist and they do lots of picturesque and cutesy romancing. But Kaali finds out there is more to Meera than being a simple artist. Eventually they part and go their own ways. Fifteen years later, Veer (Varun Dhawan) meets Ishita (Kriti Sanon) and they fall in love. Veer is Kaali’s little brother, although Kaali now calls himself Raj and is a simple mechanic and car modifier. Ishu’s big sister? Yeah. Will Veer and Ishu ever get together in the face of such strong family opposition? And why did neither Kaali nor Meera ever move on and marry someone else?

My love for Shahrukh goes way, way back, and I was not disappointed at all by him in Dilwale. I’ve always liked him most in roles where he is not too sugary sweet. I particularly liked the moments when, as Raj, he let the calculating menace of Kaali show through. He seemed completely at home in his character’s skin without looking like he’d phoned this one in. The fight scenes showed Kaali as a relentless and brutal machine. Careful angles and editing made it seem as though Shahrukh was doing all his own work in the action sequences so there was no break in the dramatic tension. I’m sure his stunt guy was working overtime but I think they’ve done a great job when it is hard to pick who is who.

His stylist also did a great job of making the 15 year gap between timelines seem believable. Plus I enjoyed the double layered linen shirts, sometimes matching or in a monochrome mix, and always with a hint of cleavage. Well done, that person.

And after Janam Janam, all I can say is “move over Mr Darcy”. (Plus, as far as I know, Colin Firth has not fixed a VW Beetle in the rain while dancing and wearing his Mr Darcy puffy shirt.)

Like Kaali there is more to Meera than meets the eye, and Kajol is fantastic. She looks great and gives Meera a tough femininity that really works. Of course she has amazing chemistry with Shahrukh, and I think the film should have concentrated on their story. Kaali and Meera were like Romeo and Juliet who had survived and moved on in life, if not emotionally. I was more interested in what they had been up to since they last met, how they went legit, and what would happen next, than I was in Veer and Ishu’s sincere puppy love. One thing that I really liked is that the women drive the pace of developments in their relationships. Raj/Kaali told Meera she had got him all wrong. She didn’t budge just because he looked sad (and hot), but when she was ready she investigated further and she listened to the evidence.

Varun is pleasant, can dance, is good in action, but his dialogue delivery was odd. It sounded Shatneresque. Mumbled! And! Like! He! Spoke! With! An! Exclamation! He seemed to be pushing to make his action bigger, but instead it looked like his timing was off. His best moments were one on one with Shahrukh as the brothers dealt with the rocky road to true love. In one scene they are laughing through tears and it was genuinely touching, and then later a grim looking scene turned to sheepish laughter. I’d like Varun to do more action centred roles as I think he’d be great in that genre.

Kriti Sanon seems to be eminently qualified to be a romantic lead by virtue of not wearing much. Her acting is not offensively bad, but like Varun her shortcomings were all the more evident for the contrast. She fares better in scenes with either Shahrukh or Kajol as maybe she had something more to work off where Varun was a bit patchy.

Vinod Khanna and Kabir Bedi played Kaali and Meera’s respective fathers. They were charming and pragmatic, loving their families and hating their enemies with equal vigour. The stuff revenge sagas are made of.

Dilwale-flash cars

Shetty’s taste is hit and miss for me. The audience I saw this with was in stitches at the excruciating wordplay from Oscar (Sanjay Mishra). I loved the montage of lies that Anwar (Pankaj Tripathi) and Shakti (Mukesh Tiwari) spun, using snippets from what was on TV, to cover up Raj’s past. Veer cheekily does the SRK arms flung wide and lean when he needs help, channelling his inner filmi hero, and knowing that pose never ever fails. But when Mani (Johnny Lever) turned up in a fro, lungi, and mesh vest, masquerading as a South Indian thug I couldn’t understand why Shetty thought it was OK in Dilwale when he’d largely avoided such nonsense in Chennai Express. Boman Irani has settled comfortably into a half-arsed overacting groove that belies his abilities. There are lots of little references to DDLJ and other films from Love, Actually to Dude, Where’s My Car, and some laugh out loud lines so it pays to pay attention.

I was dying to see Gerua. I’ve recently been to Iceland and had visited several of the locations, not knowing Dilwale had been shooting there earlier in the year. I can assure you that the countryside really is THAT spectacular. Janam Janam is lush and full of longing, and showcased Kajol and Shahrukh’s chemistry with some age appropriate choreo. Varun got the best intro with the colourful Manma Emotion Jaage. Tukur Tukur plays over the end credits so if your audience is as annoying as mine was, you’ll probably just see a line of people’s butts shuffle past! The difference in style between Kajol and Shahrukh and Kriti and Varun is really evident as the youngsters act at the camera while the established stars know exactly where the camera is, but also know it will find them so they just do their thing.

This is definitely a good bet for the SRK or Kajol fans, but for others maybe not so much. I do think Dilwale delivers on the promise of being (fairly) entertaining, gorgeous to look at, and with loads of energy, but it falters when the film moves away from Raj and Meera. One I’d watch again on DVD and make judicious use of the fast forward button!

Chennai Express


I had very low expectations of Chennai Express, mostly due to Rohit Shetty’s idea of humour. I expected something along the lines of “a typical filmi Rahul type wanders into a Tamil film. Hijinks ensue.” And that is what I got. Not entirely successful, but amusing enough with loads of colour and movement, Chennai Express is a good timepass.

Chennai-Express-it starts

Shah Rukh plays this Rahul as an anti-Rahul. Where the KKKG model Rahul would have made his grandfather’s last wish a priority, this one tries to skive off. Rahul has lived in comfort all of his 40 years and yet feels no obligation to family. He is an unappealing manchild clearly in need of a wakeup call. A series of misadventures see him trapped on the Chennai Express, headed straight for a showdown with a Tamil don and his family. Shah Rukh has no qualms about making Rahul a shallow idiot to start with and there is an air of self-parody about some of his preening and posing. I particularly liked the sly humour when Meenamma (Deepika Padukone) guesses he must be 50, or maybe even older. Shah Rukh does all his familiar shtick from hair ruffling, décolletage sniffing (you know the move), arm flinging, to the eyes welling with tears. Of course it wouldn’t be an SRK film without a far too long speech about some social issue. While I appreciated the content (women should be able to make choices for themselves) it was rather undermined by the context (blokes beating each other to a pulp so Rahul might win the right to give Meena her choice). Shah Rukh isn’t perfect, and he does ham wildly at times but he also has the courage to show off those spindly legs in a lungi.

chennai-express-Deepika and SRK danceChennai-Express_Deepika as Meenamma

Deepika gives one of her better performances as Meenamma (leaving aside her much criticised accent which didn’t bother me that much). From her DDLJ style entry (and one of the funnier scenes that ensued) and her cheerful explanation that her father (the excellent Sathyaraj) is a renowned don, Meenamma made an impression. Deepika always looks pretty but often fails to convey chemistry with her co-stars. She seems to have overcome that as her scenes with Shah Rukh are lively, often fun and even moving. She has worked on her dancing too and appeared to good effect in the big production numbers. And her wardrobe was just lovely although I’m not sure where all the sarees kept coming from. Generous village ladies I guess.

Chennai-Express-Rahul and MeenammaChennai-Express-Love starts

Initially dismissive of each other, there is no insta-love. Their relationship develops through forced proximity and dealing with external threats.  A series of events open each character’s eyes to their feelings and the triggers for these changes make sense within the story. Meena is the first to fall but she has reservations about Rahul and isn’t overcome by silliness just because her heart flutters. The romance works for me as it isn’t the primary motivation from the start, despite Rahul’s pathetic flirting.

As I expected, the comedy is often too broad and overplayed for my tastes. But there were some wittier scenes that I really liked. Rahul and Meenamma communicate in front of their abductors by singing in Hindi to Bollywood songs, many from SRK films. When Meena finds out Rahul is a mithaiwala or tries to guess his age, Deepika’s reactions seemed spontaneous and very funny. But it is hit and miss. Heather found several things funny that I would edit out (e.g. Meenamma’s ‘nightmare’) and other audience members were just about wetting themselves in scenes that had me checking my watch. I liked the product placements that were often done in tongue-in-cheek style.

CHENNAI EXPRESS - Rowdieschennai-express-village scenes

There is a lot of chatter about the South Indian stereotypes portrayed. Well, there is just about every stereotype present and the North Indians were less than perfect. Rahul was arrogant, ignorant and not really interested in Tamil culture, assuming people were quaint caricatures or savages. The Tamil rowdies were played by the guys who play Tamil rowdies in almost every film; swarthy, stocky and spiral permed as always. The ‘other’ South stereotypes also appeared – salt of the earth villagers with hearts of gold. There was even a comedy Punjabi policeman. No one was safe. Maybe it is just that years of watching Indian film portrayals of fat people, coloured people, white people, disabled people, what was the other one … oh yes, women, has eroded my sensibilities. Rohit Shetty gave some standards his own fun twist too – like trading a convoy of white Sumos for a fleet of colourful 4WDs.


The supporting cast are largely playing the same roles they play in their own film industry so that was fun to see. Nikitin Dheer was perfectly fine as Meenamma’s unwanted prospective groom but I couldn’t help wishing they cast favourite “That Guy” Subbaraju. Maybe he refused on the grounds that singing Chamak Challo would be bad for his image.

Hooray for item numbers! Priyamani and her back up dudes were fantastic. I especially liked the enthusiasm of the guy in the yellow scarf who appears between SRK and Priyamani and the guy in the stripey mesh singlet. Who cares if the song lyrics are stupid? Vishal-Shekhar had me wanting to hit replay and dance! SRK struggling to keep up with the chunky backing dancers and looking like a fish out of water may not have been intentional but it suited Rahul. He looks happy and absolutely knackered in the behind the scenes bits in that clip.


The other songs were visually extravagant and included all the other SI film staples that couldn’t fit in the narrative. The much vaunted tribute to Rajinikanth is a dud. While Rajini is not much of a dancer, there was little of his style in the number. The fight scenes and car stunts are what I’d expect from a Hindi director with a big budget and a couple of Tamil DVDs on the coffee table; spectacular but a bit slower and more laboured than if this was a real South film. And like many South Indian films, this is visually gorgeous.

I liked more than I disliked about Chennai Express, but apart from the songs I don’t think I would watch it again. Despite all the Tamil references, this reminds me more of a Telugu film as – spoiler – no one is raped and there are lots of survivors at the end. Worth a watch, more so if you’re a Shah Rukh fan.

Heather says: I also had really low expectations for this film which is possibly why I enjoyed Chennai Express as much as I did.  For a change I even liked Deepika and I thought she did particularly well in the comedy scenes.  Perhaps it’s only when she appears opposite Shah Rukh that she actually manages to act.  I also laughed much more than I was expecting – after all I don’t think I’ve been amused by a Rohit Shetty film before either.  Chennai Express is really very funny, despite the humour mostly being very broad and largely based on various caricatures.    However as Temple mentions, there was some more subtle humour and the references to many older films were witty and often poked fun at SRK more than at any particular stereotype.

I enjoyed the music and dancing more on screen too, since I hadn’t been terribly impressed with the soundtrack on first listening.  The highlight was definitely Priyamani and watching Shah Rukh trying to keep up, but most of the songs were well pictured and enjoyable.  Any song is always much better with the addition of elephants in my opinion!  Overall the film looks beautiful, although it really could have been almost anywhere in the south and only the language placed the film in Tamil Nadu.

Chennai Express is not one of my favourite Shah Rukh Khan films, but definitely not his worst, and there are a few scenes I would like to watch again. Not the lungi dance tribute to Rajni over the end credits though – I’d recommend leaving when the credits start to roll!