First things first, Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) starrer Chennai Express is what in Tollywood is fondly referred to as the following: ALL-TIME INDUSTRY HIT!!! In his 21st year of Bollywood career, SRK has delivered a film that has re-written all box office records and established new benchmarks—all sectors, centers, and countries. The crown of Box Office King is for him to keep for the next five years, irrespective of how many remake-hits Salman and Akshay make and regardless of how much Aamir Khan and Hrithik try to select perfect scripts.
The Openings: SRK’s films are always fighting several demons. At this point in his career, and similarly in the past, but it has never been so strong, SRK’s biggest challenge was: how to re-invent after being successful for 20 years? This is a common syndrome for superstars. Salman Khan, in particular, found his answer in the quintessential South-Indian Hero. SRK, to his credit, tried to reinvent himself but was always let down by poor story like DON 1 and 2 [I hope there is no 3], Ra.One. SRK’s disassociation with the supremely talented Farah Khan who gave him Main Hoon Na and Om Shanthi Om (which if they released today are both 200 Crore plus movies!) also cost him a lot. The Top 10 lists of record breaking movies has been dominated by Salman Khan films post Dabangg. Thus, not only did SRK have to deliver a good film that satisfies his fans, but also one that pleases the general audience. And implicitly, he had to break the records of Ek Tha Tiger. And I am sure, much to surprise of UTV, SRK, Rohit Shetty, SRK’s fans and even Salman Khan—Chennai Express has simply cruised through at 200 Crores in the first seven days. And with this SRK can keep his crown.
The Product: Lets be honest here, all of us. Chennai Express is not a supreme product in terms of story…at least, nothing compared to 3 Idiots. But again, India is diverse country with different socio-economic groups each liking different kinds of movies—that is why we can have blockbusters like 3 Idiots and Dabangg and Yeh Jaawani–three really different movies, all occupy top positions. At the end of the day, Chennai Express did what every movie is anyway supposed to do: entertain. Period.
Why is it such a success: I have been reading since the past one week several critics and analysts write about this. They also seem to be giving the credit to Rohit Shetty, which he surely deserves, but not in entirety. I would argue that this is far from the truth. Although Rohit Shetty enjoys the status of having the maximum number of 100 crore club movies, how many of us will go and buy a DVD of these movies for home viewing? None! In fact, Chennai Express is Rohit Shetty’s best film to date and that is because he adapted his style to suit the image and charisma of SRK. It is not the other way round as others claim. This is not the first time SRK has played the bungling fool or common man turned hero because of love. But I do want to thank Rohit Shetty for one thing—for not signing up Kareena Kapoor, else this would have been Ra. One all over again! With this film, the one common theme between SRK and Salman is: we will see more South Indian movie adaptations and hopefully SRK will realize that he really needs to focus on the India market and masses. For this, I will thank Salman Khan for making it apparent to the Bollywood box office that: the masses matter.
The SRK Theory: I have an SRK theory. I told my neighbor, the day Chennai Express trailer released that it will be a hit. why? there are three elements needed for a full-fledged SRK Blockbuster: mother sentiment, blood oozing out from the mouth in a fight sequence, and a running scene in long shot. When I saw the blood-from-mouth scene in the trailer I knew it would be a hit. Chennai Express had a dadi-dada sentiment (so this is close to mother sentiment), but no long-shot of SRK running. If it had then it would have been an even bigger hit!!!
Anyways, the biggest reason why Chennai Express is doing so well is because of the following: the Indian Rupee and stock market are bleeding, there is political and policy paralysis in the nation, cross-border fighting, a naval submarine that just blew up and nobody knows why, states fighting to be united and to be split, and a silent TB epidemic that is raging parts of India…in the midst of all this…the silly humor that Chennai Express provides seems like gold. Go Enjoy!
I sincerely hope SRK’s future movies are focused in India (left to Karan Johar this would have been Copenhagen Express!), cater to the masses, and adheres to the SRK theory.