Shah Rukh Is Shah Rukh, Baaki Sab Zero
It’s a Shah Rukh Khan film. He plays Bauwa Singh, a vertically challenged person who has immense swag. He thinks he was born to love ‘em and leave ‘em, but until he understands the meaning of love, he’s a zero…
Rab Ne Bana Di Ajeeb Jodi
Shah Rukh fans will ‘Ooh!’ and ‘aah!’ because Shah Rukh has this certain something that goes beyond his dimples. He has that swag. And in this movie, though he’s shown to be vertically challenged, literally named Bauwa Singh, it is bravado, his immense self-confidence that makes the first half likeable even though it is pretty weird to see him in this avatar. He’s sassy, self-deprecating and rude and fun.
Beyond Badshah’s badassery, everything else is just gawdawful. There. I’ve said it. For a Shah Rukh film. How can that even be possible? Let us count the ways.
Bauwa lives in Meerut, but everything – from the streets to the house to the market – is so fake, you know it’s a film set. Bauwa’s dad (Tigmanshu Dhulia) is ready to beat up his son, insulting him, and everyone has to pull him back. His mom (Sheeba Chaddha) protects her son from the dad. There are other family members around to take sides, but are never identified. They misuse Brijendra Kala who just appears on screen to offer Shah Rukh mithai and then eat it and exit right. Why?
But the most annoying person of the film is Bauwa’s friend Guddu played by Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub who is usually so good as a ‘friend’ in all his movies, the director allowed him to do whatever he wanted. And of course the lad proved that everyone, but everyone studies in the Noida School of Overacting. Guddu sports the most ridiculous colored hair (nobody checked or cared that it changed in one scene), has a ‘made in China’ eye, walks around with a torch, says, ‘Blind person coming through’ (which is not funny and doesn’t fit for a bumpkin from the country). After a while, you just want to swat him off the screen.
Shah Rukh manipulates Anushka Sharma into falling in love with him. It’s like watching a weird new age Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi with disabled people. And you cannot put a finger on it, but the Bollywoodisation of differently abled people sets my teeth on edge. I don’t know if they are trying to get a laugh out of vertically challenged people and people suffering from life threatening diseases by putting them in a Bollywood romantic situation or there is a genuine empathy at work here. The Theory Of Everything made Hawking human, but in this movie, Anushka Sharma’s speech about how Bauwa saw her as a girl rather than a disabled person on a wheelchair is the closest you get for empathy. There are awful references about dwarf people in circuses, and Bauwa’s dad even suggests that Anushka Sharma’s father make money off Bauwa by getting to perform in the circus which make you cringe in your seat. And I’m not even getting into comapring earlier films like Appu Raja where Kamala Hasan plays a dwarf. There is a certain level of empathy in that film. Here, there is not a single line about Bauwa’s feelings of isolation because he’s ‘different’, just bravado. It takes a Shah Rukh Khan to pull this off. But you know it’s just a shallow thing. Perhaps even to get kudos for ‘special effects’.
Anushka Sharma plays Stephen Hawking type scientist, but that would mean someone would need to work hard on the script instead of just some cheap laughs about Shah Rukh’s dimples. So they make her into a space scientist, someone who found water on Mars. She’s even going to send a chimp to Mars but the chimp behaves badly so he doesn’t have to go to Mars (leaving chimp family behind) because they sense things…Don’t ask. Just pray no one gets the references about math being right from Hidden Figures. But we’re seeing Mohan Bhargav from Swades turn into a pale imitation of Ryan Gosling from First Man and there are umpteen references of ‘Toot-ta tara’ from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge to keep you counting scenes inspired from movies.
Before you upchuck popcorn all over the people sitting in front, I had better tell you about Katrina Kaif who plays a movie star called Babita Kumari. Who thought up these names? It’s not clever, but idiotic. Especially because they even call Anushka Sharma Aafia Yusufzai Bhinder. So Bauwa Singh is infatuated by the movie star, and leaves his physicist girlfriend to pursue her. She is fascinated by his swag and sass and sort of keeps him for a pet, ‘Kal se shoot par aa jao!’ (Come for the shoot from tomorrow). For once you don’t hate Katrina for speaking in that anglicised Hindi. In fact, in a couple of scenes, she is a saving grace. Her assistant asks her to fix her bra strap and Katrina says, ‘Let them see! They’re dying to write about a boozed out star who had a wardrobe malfunction!’
You go, ‘Wow!’ Where did such home-truths about fans and the paparazzi come from? Surely not the same person who then in a Bruce Wayne inspired moment, has Katrina Kaif shoo away all the guests at the party.
There’s not a single original thing in the film, you sigh as you watch the Shah Rukh ogle fest (even though he’s shown to be only 4 foot 6 inches tall) when he trains to be an astronaut who is going away in a Passengers inspired sleeping pod to Mars on a space flight. Oh yes, there’s a shot of Shah Rukh on Mars just like how Matt Damon in The Martian, is shown tapping on the camera. The trouble is, when you are lifting off so many scenes from Hollywood, you forget that Shah Rukh is the only man going to Mars, then who is the guy with him a la First Man on the flight? How many times do they want you to facepalm?
Did I say, how sigh inducing Shah Rukh is, despite the weird size? And it was love from fans when he made the stars fall from the skies… Until Kajol showed up in the movie (so did all the Lux soap ladies) and said, ‘Show us the falling stars’ like she did in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, and killed the romance in this movie.
Oh yes, they even copy… Erm… Pay tribute to The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs at the start of the film. That was actually nice. That and Shah Rukh’s swag. Everything else is like the title of the film.
(this review, sans my personal view about differently abled people appears on www.nowrunning.com)