'My Name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist' – one line sure to be mouthed by you as you step out of the theatre. And mind you, there are many other priceless quotes.
My Name is Khan is unlike any other Karan Johar-directed film, although it has glimpses of his past work. It does not have masala, no mindless song and dance, and no comic fillers. It has a very strong main message, and several others tucked in. KJo has sure come a long way from candyfloss.
Shah Rukh Khan as Rizwan Khan is gullible, lovable and careful to be not irritable. And thankfully, he makes the audience empathise with him as an Asperger Syndrome patient, and does not look for pity.
So, Rizwan is attracted to machines, and pebbles. He is loving, caring but cannot express it. He hates a hug, and times sexual intercourse – 'Can we have sex, please?'. He feels passion but cannot express it. He is good at facts and figures, and handling and repairing any kind of machine. And, bright colours and loud sounds freak him out.
My Name is Khan begins with Rizwan looking over President Bush's itinerary. He wants to meet Mr President and tell him, "My Name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist". Rizwan starts his journey to Washinton, D.C., but becomes a terror suspect in the beginning itself.
As a child in Mumbai, India, Rizwan (played superbly by Tanay Chheda) loses his father early and is nurtured by his mother (Zarina Wahab) who recognises his special talent along with his Parsi teacher Wadia. But amidst all this, Rizwan's younger brother Zakir (Jimmy Shergill) feels left out, and he moves to the US as soon as he turns 18. After a few years, he calls Rizwan to stay with him and his wife (played effectively by Soniya Jehan) and work as a salesman for his company.
A genius with machines should have been channeled in the appropriate direction, but Rizwan ends up being a salesman. But it is while selling beauty products that he meets future wife Mandira Rathod (Kajol) who is a single mom with a six-year-old boy Sameer (Yuwaan Makaar).
After a few cute moments together, Mandira and Rizwan get hitched. She is now Mandira Khan and her son, Sameer Khan. And then, 9/11 happens. Attitudes towards Muslims and anybody with a beard and turban change. The film does make you cringe at the thought of being in a situation like countless Muslims and Sikhs have been because of their appearance and/or surname.
Rizwan and Mandira's life changes dramatically post 9/11, and he embarks on a journey to meet George W Bush to tell him that every Muslim is not a terrorist. But his simple motive behind this is to win his wife back, and not exactly represent a community.
It is this innocence of Rizwan that wins you over. At an only-Christian charity event for Somalia, he donates his ticket money "for those who are not Christian in Africa". Superb.
And in spite of his hurry to meet the Prez, Rizwan changes track to save people from a calamity. When someone offers him food, he grabs more than his share of the pie, quite in a gullible fashion. It is these small things that make you love My Name is Khan, making you ignore the unnecessary deviations and the length.
But the film never loses focus on the 'Meet the President' track. You begin to travel with Rizwan on his quest. The film shows how and what makes Rizwan a hero from a terror suspect, with the help of media (reporters played by Parvin Dabas, Arjun Mathur and Sugandha Garg).
There are other actors who have bit roles but are worth mentioning – Arif Zakaria, Vinay Pathak, Navneet Nishan, Tarun Mansukhani, Sheetal Menon and all the foreign ones.
Kajol is back with her mischievous onscreen persona, and is suitably intense where required. As for the Shah Rukh Khan-Kajol chemistry, never did it feel like they were doing a film together after years. Their tuning is all intact, and it has been proved again that they make the BEST onscreen couple.
The India back story has been captured very well by Johar. Cinematography by the renowned Ravi K Chandran lives up to his name totally in My Name is Khan. Hats off for that.
My Name is Khan is international in its feel and treatment, shots, production values and the various settings – but with some of Karan Johar's trademarks thrown in. Like the use of Hum Honge Kamayaab throughout – a song for effect. But it's obvious Karan Johar wants to please both India and overseas markets, especially the US.
The Hurricane Katrina sequence has been unmistakably put in for this effect. And the track of Mama Jenny and Funny Hair Joel. Through this, the film not only shows the animosity towards Muslims and Sikhs, but also African-Americans. There is also a message for terrorists. Karan Johar has truly aimed for the global audience.
Shibani Bathija's story is not water-tight, but her dialogues are impressive, like 'Namaz jagah se nahin, neeyat se padhi jaati hain'.
Verdict: One of the important films of Hindi cinema. Although it messes up its length, there are some touching scenes not to be missed. My Name is Khan has many messages and not just an 'Autism Alert' and 'Terror Alert'. Go for it and enjoy interpreting.