Mid Day Review
Rating: 4.5 / 5
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: When the maestro of romance teams up with celluloid's most adored pair, you know there's magic waiting to happen. Get set for the year's best offering so far. My Name Is Khan has all the gloss you expect from a KJo film -- only this time, it comes along with a new sensibility and a bolder theme. The film is about Rizwan Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, a birth disorder. Rizwan has problems in his social interactions. After his mother's (Zarina Wahab) death, his US-based younger brother (Jimmy Shergill) takes him to San Francisco where Rizwan starts working as a salesman. On one of his calls, he encounters Mandira (Kajol) and his life changes. Mandira is a single mother, falls in love with Rizwan in an improbable yet utterly romantic manner. They get married and, life seems till (9/11) changes it all. Rizwan and Mandira are torn apart after they face a monumental tragedy as victims of racism. To win Mandira back, Rizwan is faced with the most daunting task of all. And thus begins his journey -- across states, cultures, people, racial profiling and hatred. In his quest to rediscover his lost love, how Rizwan emerges as the most unlikely hero forms the crux of the film.
WHAT'S HOT: There's no one quite like Karan Johar when it comes to love stories and MNIK simply reinforces that. This is a difficult subject to handle -- it's multi-layered unlike his previous attempts. There's a hero with a handicap; the leading lady who is the mother of a school kid; there's a clash of cultures inspired by true events and there's some hard-hitting drama. It's commendable the way Karan interweaves all of this in his narrative, in a film which at the core is a love story with epical proportions. Even though MNIK is the director's shortest film in terms of length, it's the most comprehensive story he's ever told. The quintessential dazzle of a KJo film is all there -- from the zigzag streets of Frisco to the stark beauty of Arizona. The director scores full marks in the poignant portrayal of each of the relationships. The Rizwan-Mandira romance is captured beautifully. Rizwan's moments with her son are brilliant and the child's acceptance of the new man in his mother's life is subtle yet so effective. The second half of the film is the crowning glory -- the lead pair's parting forms the base leading to Rizwan's spectacular ride through the country and his ability to strike a chord with everyone he encounters. MNIK works because it's an uplifting tale of an underdog told in an entertaining manner. There's also that element of freshness in the film also his choice of actors -- Zarina Wahab, Jimmy Shergill, Soniya Jehan (simply superb) and Arif Zakaria. It's a delight to see Kajol back in action -- she brings Mandira alive first with her characteristic candour and then with her heartrending complexity of emotions. The distressing scene with her son is proof of why she's simply the best. But MNIK is, after all, the story of Rizwan and it is to Shah Rukh Khan's credit that Rizwan grows on you with every scene. What seems awkward initially eventually culminates into a character you warm upto want to take home -- you want to laugh at his innocent antics and cry when he's in pain. The SRK magic is at play in almost all the crucial moments -- when Mandira proposes to him; his touching camaraderie with the African-American family; the sequence in the Church where he speaks about his son; the one where he stands up to a fanatic; the scene -- MNIK is Shah Rukh
WHAT'S NOT: In a near-perfect film, the only over-the-top part is Rizwan's return to a flood-hit small town to save the African-American family. It's stands out because everything else is so understated. And then the part about the media brigade landing there followed by Rizwan's supporters is a bit unconvincing. Also, one of the highlights of all Karan Johar films has been the musical score. In MNIK, nothing impresses us much except for the Noor-E-Khuda track, which is haunting.
WHAT'S THAT: Rizwan never shakes hands with anyone -- he has a problem with that. Yet, when he meets the American President, he shakes hands not once but twice. Special treatment for special people?
WHAT TO DO: Brave the protests and head for the nearest cinema hall. MNIK is a must-watch. The Karan-Shah Rukh-Kajol combo strikes once more.