DVD: My Name is Khan

Courtesy: AllMoviePhoto.com
(Khan and Kajol make a serious issue relatable)

Starring Shahrukh Khan and Kajol. Directed by Karan Johar. 165 Minutes. PG-13

Romance, heartbreaking moments and silly humour are the perfect combination for a Hindi film. Throw Shahrukh Khan and Kajol into the mix and you’ve got a Bollywood heavy-hitter. My Name is Khan is no exception.

The film opens at an airport in the U.S., shortly after the 9/11 attacks, when Rizwan Khan (Khan), who is a Muslim, is pulled aside for questioning on assumption that he may be a terrorist. Khan (the character), who has grown up with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, has just moved to San Francisco to live with his brother. There he meets and becomes smitten with hairdresser Mandira (Kajol). The film focuses on their lives together in a post-9/11 world and society’s attitudes toward them.

It’s always interesting to see how the usually happy, singing-and-dancing Bollywood handles a serious drama. My Name is Khan skips over the musical numbers and dives straight to the into the issue and tackles terrorism in a way that most American films have strayed away from: the perspective on the wrongfully accused.

Inspired by real-life events, the film looks at how religions perceive one another, how Muslims perceive each other and how outsiders act on false judgements, sometimes with serious consequences. Writer Shibani Bathija does not tread lightly around matters, yanking on heartstrings at times.

But what makes these Bathija’s scenes work are the performances from both Khan and Kajol. While Khan (the actor) convinces us of his character, acting against social norms and carrying on naive conversations, it’s Kajol who brings true conviction to her role, pouring grief into her scenes as she breaks down in tears and bursts in flames when she angrily lashes out against Khan during a fight.

Yet through the tough stuff, Bathija tosses in some hilarious one-liners, like when Khan, who works for a beauty products company, makes sales pitches verbatim off his training script or tells Mandira on their wedding night that he’s been reading Intercourse for Dumbos.

However, one of the most interesting aspects of the film is its portrayal of multiculturalism. The variety of races and religions evident in this film serve as a constant reminder that while this may be the perspective of one person, My Name is Khan is about a human issue, regardless of background. B-

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