'My Name is Khan' is Dharma Productions latest blockbuster, featuring "Shahjol", who all audiences were impatient to watch together once again. The film tells the touching story of a Muslim, Rizwan Khan (Shah Rukh Khan), who is all but a terrorist. It searches to portray his life with Hindu Mandira (Kajol) and her son Sameer. The story concentrates on the change that took place in Western mentalities regarding the Muslim community after the tragic events of 9/11.
The film's first part is enjoyable. The very beginning concentrates on Rizwan's childhood, featuring an excellent performance by Tanay Chheda. The story, plot and acting are bang on. Spectators are slowly pulled into what seems like a well worked independent film. The mood changes though as an adult Rizwan appears and the film begins to have a feel that is more characteristic of big Hindi film productions.
All in all, MNIK is a good entertainer. Shah Rukh Khan is endearing in a role in which his subdued charm plays its magic without him having to act as the conventional and flamboyant romantic hero, delivering what could be considered as his best performance since 'Chak De India!'. Kajol lights up the screen with her sunny presence. She is masterful in her role and her chemistry with her fellow lead actor is palpable.
The sole faults of MNIK if there are any to be pointed out, are that director Karan Johar had much to say and it is difficult to fit it all into one film (the Wilhemina hurricane sequences are in my honest opinion partly off the subject). It also has a certain repetitiveness and several incongruencies in its script that might keep the film from becoming an all out international entertainer, which is sad, because the message that the film carries is worthy of being heard by all audiences.
Script tightness is often a sure bet with foreign audiences. Despite having roped in Syd Field* as a screenplay consultant, the film's inconsistencies and shortcuts appear blatant. Why is the main character shown going through USA immigration if he has never left the country in search of his goal: speaking to the President of the United States? Why is Shah Rukh Khan acting mentally challenged in some sequences when he clearly only has Aspergers syndrome? Why is the passing away of one of the characters labelled as a racial crime if no racial slurs are heard when he is being agressed? Why is so much emphasis placed on the name Khan, if the name is irrelevant to anyone in America? Indeed, seldom any American would be able to make a difference between Khan and Khanna, not knowing that the first is bound to be the name of a person of Muslim confession.
To its merit, MNIK depicts Westerners in a more positive light than most Hindi films, even though it legitimately concentrates on pointing a finger at the West's darkest and most irrational fears regarding Muslim culture.
Karan Johar has been labelled as a universalist by some or as being in love with America by others. MNIK is his noble attempt to say that his love of all cultures will not keep him from expressing constructive criticism. The film is a fine entertainer, in large part due to its cast and suitable music, as well as many memorable moments in the script in which the director skillfully tugs at the heart's strings, making the audience sing, laugh or weep.
What is important to take home from the cinema hall is that all of us belong to humanity and are equal. All of us deserve love and respect. A positive moral for an endearing story.
Directed by Karan Johar
Shibani Bathija (story and screenplay)
Niranjan Iyengar (dialogue)
Shahrukh Khan ... Rizwan Khan
Kajol ... Mandira
Steffany Huckaby ... Kathy Baker
Tanay Chheda ... Rizwan Khan as a child
* Syd Field is a renowned counselor in screenplay writing and has written several succesful books on the subject.
I would like to thank Joanna, who is a special needs specialist, for providing information on Aspergers syndrome, allowing us to understand Rizwan's character better.