Bollywood as an industry may be seeing brighter days but as far as film qualities go the regressiveness has far from ended. Directors have found a new topic to beat down, drag out and try to make worthwhile, life after marriage. There was Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam, a jaded project in all the sense, Saathiya, which highlighted how a major accident can open one’s eyes to the real world, Khwahish, which was misrepresented completely, and now Chalte Chalte. Going by Bollywood’s track record we’ll be seeing more films like this in the future but we hope they don’t turn out like this one and don’t release anytime soon.
That said and done, bad is what Chalte Chalte is not. The film is not a horrendous attempt at tackling marital relationships and could have been much worse. In fact, the film is a must see for Shah Rukh Khan fans, Rani Mukherji fans and fans of the couple, or people who are looking for good time pass entertainment. There is romance, comedy, a few contrived emotional scenes and melody all over the place. But, by far, one can’t sit down and call this film a “must see”, certainly not of the kind one runs to the theatre for. Unlike the Yash Johar / Yash Chopra- Shah Rukh Khan films, or other films of that genre that Shah Rukh does every so often, this film falls short of the “same topic but well presented great film” category.
The film opens up with a group of youngsters discussing love stories as one of them is getting engaged. The couple starts talking about the great love story of Raj and Priya and thus we are introduced to Raj (Shah Rukh Khan), a truck driver who runs his own truck driving company. Raj meets Priya (Rani Mukherji) after the two almost get into an accident. Raj is immediately smitten by Priya who can’t stop talking about what an insolent driver Raj is. A few light moments later, the two end up spending a great deal of time together. Priya gives Raj her number but the laundry man washes his pants with the number in it causing it to fade away.
Raj tries to find Priya but when he does, Priya has already agreed to a pre-arranged marriage with her childhood friend Sameer (Jas Arora). Raj tries to convince her otherwise but eventually she gets on the plane to Greece, Athens, where her family lives and Raj follows her. Raj and Priya get even closer as the plan has to take a detour due to bad weather in Athens. Again, Raj tries to convince Priya to leave with him and marry him but Priya says no. Due to the continuous bad weather, Raj ends up driving Priya to her family’s home and gives a final goodbye. But as the ceremony begins, Priya realizes that she really loves Raj more and runs off with him after getting her father’s consent.
Raj and Priya live a happy life until real marital problems start kicking in. Situations like cleanliness, yelling, and the major one of financial issues cause a rift in the marriage. Eventually the couple splits after Priya borrows money from Sameer to help Raj and his ailing company and lies to Raj saying it is from her fashion work in Athens.
Undoubtedly, Chalte Chalte is the kind of film the masses will clamor up to. It’s the kind of film people expect to see Shah Rukh Khan in when he’s not busy doing his rare films like Asoka or Devdas. Furthermore, it has entertainment value, songs, comedy and the emotion. The film is enjoyable overall, however, retrospectively speaking; Chalte Chalte could have been much more. I’m sure walking out of the cinema you’d hear, “after a long time we’ve had a nice film”. I hope that doesn’t send signals off to our directors (especially after Andaaz), as that is just an indication of how horrible previous releases have been.
For Chalte Chalte, fault lies in that there is emphasis placed on the marital problems but all resolutions are faux. The one powerhouse scene where Raj confronts Priya about her asking Sameer for money is still left unresolved at the end of the film and while the moral is that problems are to be worked out and not placed too much emphasis on, the couple never really discuss their problem without remaining one sided. Sure the issues are realistic but the film lacks the realistic solution.
While the songs by Jatin-Lalit and Aadesh Shrivastava are beautifully picturized, especially “Tauba”, “Suno Na” and “Dagariya Chalo”, the rest of the film is laced with your typical cinematography and scenery. Certainly nothing compared to the vibrancy that was evident in Saathiya. “Gum Shuda” not only sounds horrible on the decent audio, it sounds worse and is picturized worst on screen. Shah Rukh’s dance moves in the song reeks as does his laymen supporting dancers. Shah Rukh Khan was said to have repeated himself in Devdas for some scenes, but everything else in the film made that less noticeable. Prepare yourself because Chalte Chalte is nothing but a big repetition of Shah Rukh Khan over the years from the new overdone drunk scenes to the brush your hands through your hair “I’m in love” scenes. The only innovative and entertaining part of his performance is the comedy, which thankfully does take precedence in the film. Again, Shah Rukh fans will love him but to call this a feather in his cap is quite frankly a joke.
Rani Mukherji is good, but again, coming after her performances in Mujhse Dosti Karoge and more so Saathiya, this is nothing special, and not even close to award worthy (especially when competing with Urmila’s performance in the recently released Bhoot). For all the good stuff spoken about the film and her performance from the production team, I expected more. I will also note that it would have probably been better seeing Aishwarya Rai doing the role as was scheduled before Rani re-took it. After all, all I could think about watching her performance was how much Saathiya was such a better film, her performance included. It may not be the team’s fault that the two films are so similar, but it is not our fault that its blatantly obvious that one is better than the other.
Jas Arora as the (sigh) childhood friend meant for marriage to Priya is pleasant to watch without doing anything special. Supporting actors like Satish Shah did a better job in Saathiya as well. Lilette Dubay leaves a mark as the arrogant rich aunty though she too enacted a similar role in Om Jai Jagdish. Johnny Lever is his usual funny self as the drunken bum on the corner of the street but are we supposed to draw our own conclusions as to why he can’t stop singing “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” without making obvious assumptions?
Directorially, it has become relatively easy to make emotional scenes work lately. Given what films everyone has to go by and given that Shah Rukh Khan (and even Rani Mukherji) are so used to do these type of scenes, the work on director Aziz Mirza must have been substantially easy. The outcome directorially is plain old average. He excels at the comedy sequences and a few emotional sequences but otherwise there is no novelty in his direction, and the climax as abrupt as it is has no effect on the viewer. As always, there is no explanation for the turnaround of feelings in the end at all. It actually takes most of the time to discern whether it is an imaginary sequence or not and by the time you figure it out the lights are on in the cinema. A good climax would have surely done this film well, certainly much better than the elongated dialogue sequence, which doesn’t do well to keep the viewer in suspense.
Screenplay by Robin Bhatt and Aziz Mirza presents one dilemma being the only difference from previous films, but still falters in making the film neatly knit. No explorations to real feelings are presented in any true form and it is safe to say that directors like Karan Johar and Yash or Aditya Chopra would have done a better job at that. (Not that I am giving them ideas, please). For Mirza, Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani was undoubtedly a better product, not only because it didn’t require Shah Rukh to do what he does all the time all over again, but the comedy was enlightening, the aura of the film different. In addition, the dialogues (Rumi Jaffri) here are noteworthy in some areas; for the most part it too is regular.
Chalte Chalte is just better than films like Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam or cheap Chopra replicas. However it is not anything close to classic and what makes this film worse is that its “sister” films have just released not too long ago, its theme is fresh in our minds and unlike K3G, etc., there aren’t enough merits to make it rise above and please us. In an industry as droughted as ours, Aziz Mirza may have done it a favor by having Shah Rukh Khan star in a family film. Sure we’d all love a hit, especially after the recent successes we’ve had, but some of us are looking for novel meaningful and god forbid, intelligent cinema. And for that, you’d have to look elsewhere.