Written by Shibani Bathija
Directed by Karan Johar
Running Time: 2:42
My Name is Khan was a beautiful and moving film that will make you laugh, make you cry and most importantly, make you think.
Rizwan Khan has Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism that causes him to see things differently than the rest of us. His mother however teaches him the one thing that he carries with him throughout his life - the only difference between human beings is that some are good, and some are bad. This is a lesson that becomes important in Rizwan's life as he grows up and see the violence that the world offers. Upon his mother's death, Rizwan moves to the U.S. to live with his brother. There, he meets Mandira, a woman who changes his world. He falls in love with her and her son Sameer and together they build a happy life together. But the tragic events of 9/11 bring their world crashing down as Rizwan's Muslim heritage is no longer accepted. And when Sameer is beaten to death by bullies, Mandira blames Rizwan and shoves him away. She tells him that he can't come back until he meets the President of the United States and says to him "My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist." And with those words, Rizwan heads out on the journey of a lifetime that will see happiness and sorrow and the true spirit of a man who truly believes in the good of all men.
My Name is Khan is not your typical Bollywood film. The movie isn't centered around a love story (although there is certainly one) and there are no song and dance sequences. Instead what you have is a heartfelt story of a simple man who only wants to do right in the world, and expects the same from the people he meets. It's the kind of role that actors long for and Shahrukh Khan was up to the challenge. His portrayal of Rizwan was both sweet and moving, allowing the audience to truly connect with him. We meet Rizwan as a child in India where his Asperger's syndrome is never diagnosed and instead he's treated as someone who is just different. His mother dotes on him and his brother resents him, but Rizwan just does what he feels is right. Through his mother's teachings he grows up into a smart and strong willed man. And when he meets Mandira, his life finally has everything he's ever looked for. Kajol brings a wonderful light to the role of Mandira doing what most Bollywood actresses can't in this type of role - she never goes over-the-top. In fact, neither of the main stars takes their roles to the normal Bollywood mode of 'let's see how ridiculous I can get' that is the downfall of so many movies. While they manage to wring every emotion out of you, they never lose control of the character.
The movie was one of the better looking Bollywood films, with sharp visuals and thankfully, a soundtrack that wasn't dubbed in at a later date. The movie runs almost 2 hours and 45 minutes, but for the first time while watching a Bollywood film, I never felt like there was a scene (or scenes) that could easily be removed. The movie flowed very well and each scene was important. Yes, there were times that did get a little ridiculous, like the hurricane scene towards the end of the film - due to the crazy amount of people who fly down into it - but this is a movie I suppose. The first half of the film was definitely more lighthearted, setting up the characters and allowing us to really get to know them, and like them. The second half of the film becomes much more serious, as we see the aftermath of 9/11 and the effect it had on Muslims in the U.S. The movie didn't go overboard on the preaching, though there were some moments where the filmmakers did beat you over the head with symbolism and messages. But I never felt talked down to and I appreciated that.
The journey Rizwan takes is an odd one. His plan is to follow the President's itinerary and follow him around the country until he can speak to him. He ends up in the farthest reaches of the country, touching the lives of everyone he meets. There's the Hindu motel owner who at first treats Rizwan as a fellow countryman, before yelling anti-Muslim statements without knowing Rizwan's background. There's the family in Georgia who takes Rizwan in and they teach each other about dealing with loss. And then there's the millions around the country who see Rizwan's acts of kindness, even after being mistaken for a terrorist and tortured. His resolve in the face of the hatred and obstacles most people wouldn't bother trying to fight is what truly carries this film and makes it one to watch.
The DVD comes with a handful of extras. First is a short documentary called "Changing the Face of Bollywood" which is essentially everyone talking about how global the movie is, and how great a director and visionary Karan Johar is. The second is one called "Working Together" which focuses on the Shah Rukh Khan/Kajor partnership over the years. Considering how far they go back and how popular they are in India, I would have expected a little more depth but again, this lasts only a few minutes. There are two shorts about the Music of the movie and the Story. And finally there are two 'music videos' which are more like trailers for the film set to two different songs. The extras are nice, but none of them go beyond the surface of what they're trying to talk about.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I was very impressed with My Name is Khan. It was a very moving film that will hit you with every emotion possible, and leave you cheering at the end.
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