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Names above the title

Rizwan Khan is an important character in Indian filmdom. The tribulations a Muslim has to face merely because of his or her faith is at the core of what Khan goes through in this, Karan Johar’s eighth directorial venture.

entertainment Updated: May 14, 2010 23:44 IST

My name is Khan
Reliance BIG Home, Rs 399 (2-disc set)
Rizwan Khan is an important character in Indian filmdom. The tribulations a Muslim has to face merely because of his or her faith is at the core of what Khan goes through in this, Karan Johar’s eighth directorial venture.

Rizwan suffers from Asperger’s syndrome a condition of autism that was recognised as such only in the early 1990s. His condition goes undiagnosed until, trying to fulfil his mother’s last wishes, Rizwan goes to the US to join his brother’s family. He falls in love with Mandira, a divorcee and a hormonal mother of a young son. When the son dies on the football field, the two are torn apart and Khan travels the Greyhound trail trying to meet the US President. All just to tell him, “My name is Khan and I’m not a terrorist.”

Shah Rukh’s mannerisms are heightened in his portrayal of someone with Asperger’s. Just when it threatens to get as annoying as Rani Mukherjee’s blind girl in Black, sparkles of humour light up the stretch. Kajol comes back to the screen in a convincing role. But take up the whole package only if the spinning-camera shots that are typical of Johar films — ones that make them look like polished drama serials — don’t give you headache.

The director seems to be gently doffing his beret at Rain Man, the 1988 Barry Levinson film that put an autistic person at its centre. You are reminded of the earlier film at fleeting moments such as the one in which Khan stays busy checking a parking metre.

Among the special features, the one that comes with the frightening title ‘Unseen footage with Karan Johar’ turns out to be just the director explaining how his heart bled while leaving some of the scenes on the editing room floor.

The ‘Making of’ documentary stays mostly in an explanatory mode. While for Johar it seems to have been mostly about identity, SRK takes time to explain the nuances of depicting someone with Asperger’s.

The featurette at times splices together, rather unnervingly, half-sentences uttered by Johar and SRK. Are they really soul brothers?

West of New Jersey
DVD out - Loins of punjab presents
Eagle, Rs 299 (2-disc set)
Here’s yet another slice of the Indian diaspora in the US. But in storytelling, direction and acting, this is as far from My Name is Khan as Karan Johar can run in a lifetime. This, too, looks at what comprises a desi’s identity in Bush country and how the insider-outsider debate can turn tricky in a suspicious land. But it does so with utter irreverence, spinning a vastly different set of clichés.

First, let’s get over with the title. A Punjabi family that got lardy in Amrika with the help of its pork loins business — and you know what the company is called — wants to give back to the community.

In precise terms, it’s an amount of $25,000 that it wants to give out to the winner of a ‘Desi Idol’ contest.

Driven by various levels of ambition, a crowd of clichéd characters gathers at a hotel in New Jersey. There’s the loud Patel family rooting for daughter Preeti, played coy by Ishitta Sharma. Manish Acharya, the director-writer-producer, plays the shy man whose job has just been outsourced to India. Seema Rahmani is the US-born girl who cannot speak Hindi but dreams of a Bollywood career. Ajay Naidu is Turbanotorious, an aggressive Punjabi whose act is a confusion between bhangra and rap. Shabana Azmi plays a socialite who’ll stop at nothing to win the prize and earn brownies among her kitty-party friends. The odd one out is an Indo-philic Jew who’s courting an Indian girl and who knows more about India than many NRIs.

Herding them together is Jameel Khan as the rambunctious Mr Bokade, the organiser who thinks the Gipsy Kings make Indian women horny.

The behind the scenes feature is devoid of gloss and full of invectives. The irreverence is held till the very end of the audio commentary by director Acharya and writer Anuvab Pal. When Acharya pays a melodramatic tribute to “all those who helped me make this”, Pal says, “I must thank Mr Tagore.” At that profound moment, the credits roll up.

Marvellous bodysuits

DVD out - draw...the Marvel Way
Shemaroo, Rs 299
When the two largest comics empires clash, we the readers are left with a splash of boastful brand extensions. That’s how we got a series of documentaries and hulky coffee table-tops from DC Comics, the Valhalla of superheroes such as Superman and Batman, and Marvel Comics, the Disney stable that houses Spider-Man, Iron Man and X-Men when they are not zipping about saving the world from the scum of the universe. This 58-minute feature is a mere weapon in that intergalactic war.

Anchored by Stan Lee, the father of some of the most enduring ageless heroes in bodysuits, the film is aimed more at kids aspiring to learn drawing than at comics geeks looking for back-stories of their heroes.

Lee begins by making clear that one cannot expect modesty of him. He has after all fathered Phantom, Spider-Man and the Hulk. Partnering him in his quest of cooking up Marvel-mania is John Buscema, creator of Conan the Barbarian.

The patronising simplicism of the first few minutes — “get a drawing book and some soft lead pencil” — soon make way for technicalities such as “the vanishing point” and “the rhythm of a pose”. By the end, a long arc is traversed. After all, as the old jungle saying goes, “A Marvelite never makes as mistake.”

Is Your Couch Making You Cough?
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