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21 Feb 2010

My Name Is Khan

A typical KJo movie has a love story, lots of songs, fancy locales, Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol/Preity Zinta/Rani Mukherjee, a few double-meaning jokes and plenty of colour. When 'My Name Is Khan' was released and I saw the trailers, it didn't seem much different. There was the colour, SRK, Kajol, shot in America... the usual stuff. I'd watch it if I could, a no-brainer entertainment is always welcome, beats the stress away but I wouldn't kill anyone for the movie.

One night, while all of us sat down talking after dinner, the sister-in-law said that she was going to MNIK with her colleagues and wished she didn't have to go. A friend, who was visiting, said he thought the movie was good, based on the promos he's seen. Wow! I jumped at that and asked if he would go with me. The next thing I know, I was booking tickets to the movie before anyone changed their minds.

MNIK was a total surprise. Of course, it had all the overacting and melodrama that a KJo-SRK movie must have. It had a serious message too. KJo has dealt with it in a diplomatic fashion, without offending any one group of people, as is also evident from the absence of publicity for the movie, in the name of religion. Of course, there was the scene with SRK being stopped at the airport in the US and the Shiv Sena issue but that's about it. How much of it is real and how much is a movie promotion is hard to tell (for me, atleast).

The movie starts of in a pre-9/11 era. As they movie rightly says, the time period was roughly split into two as BC and AD. When 9/11 happened, there was another split. The pre-9/11 and the post-9/11 days. 

SRK plays an autistic boy, who has a near photographic memory and can "repair anything". He can't emote but hugs his mother when asked to and understands that it seems to make her feel better somehow. He watches people around him and tries to respond to various situations in a similar fashion. As the friend with me put it, he seemed to have a milder version of the illness as he is able to travel across from India to the US and various places within the country on his own. SRK & KJo have kept it as realistic as possible (a few exaggerations in a couple of places but can be forgiven). 

A relationship between a Muslim autistic boy and a Hindu girl blooms. 9/11 happens. The story moves on to narrate the tale of their lives and how the 9/11 attack affects their lives and many others like them. The story revolves around how he ends up travelling across various parts of the country, with the President's iterinary in hand, in a bid to meet the president and say to him "My Name Is Khan and I am not a terrorist". 

The movie talks about the anger and reactions of some Americans post 9/11. It also shows that not all of them were upset or turned racists. It speaks about good Muslims who understand the Quran and the ones who twist the tales in the name of Jihad, in order to hire Muslims to act for them. It touches upon the suspicious nature in which various people eye all Muslims, post an act of terrorism. The message 'My Name Is Khan and I am not a terrorist" is hammered into the audiences mind, with innumerable repetitions, by the time the movie finishes. 

A movie that's worth watching. A pleasant surprise from Karan Johar's regular romance/comedy movies. His signature style remains. He does not have the power that an Aamir Khan's movie might draw. Aamir's casting might have been better too. Yet, well done. A good movie.

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