Directed by: Karan Johar || Produced by: Hiroo Yash Johar, Karan Johar, Gauri Khan, Shahrukh Khan
Screenplay by: Shibani Bathija || Starring: Shahrukh Khan, Kajol, Jimmy Shergill, Arjun Aujla, Yuvaan Makaar, Zarina Wahab, Tanay Chheda, Pallavi Sharda
Music by: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy || Cinematography: Ravi K. Chandran || Editing by: Deepa Bhatia || Country: India || Language: Hindi, English
Running Time: 161 minutes
One of King Shah Rukh Khan’s more recent conquests is a sociopolitical examination of Muslims in the United States. It’s an interesting take on the issue from the famous Bollywood duo of Khan and Kajol, given how the film stretches itself to cover the topic of acceptance of the mentally ill as well. As expected, the film’s execution doesn’t quite match its ambition, but Khan’s highbrow performance gives My Name is Khan (MNK) enough gas to reach its somewhat satisfactory conclusion. Plus, it’s got an actor for Barack Obama, so that’s cool!
From the start, low angled shots of Khan making his way through a fearful and suspicious airport security checkpoint establish the narrative’s foreboding tone. Khan’s character’s outcast nature and obvious innocence pervade the background of most every scene in the film. The cinematography does a good job of planting you in his shoes.
Khan’s performance as the Aspberger’s-afflicted Muslim-American does much to carry the film during its slower parts, of which there are many. His character is bolstered by flashback sequences that flesh out his character and establish motivation for his actions later in the movie. The film is at its best when the story focuses on Khan and his personal struggles, which cover most of the opening act.
Once the story expands to encompass Kajol and their romantic relationship, the narrative remains strong enough as Khan adjusts to family life in the USA, specifically American fatherhood. Khan’s mannerisms can get tiresome by this point, but overall, his chemistry with Kajol and Arjan Aujla (who plays his son) is endearing. Kajol’s more subdued performance also deserves a shout-out.
However, things start to fall apart once the primary theme of Islam in America comes to the forefront of the story. The film’s heavy-handed preaching is prone to inspire laughter rather than heartfelt drama. More importantly, Khan’s pilgrimage across the USA lasts far too long, going on and on with little rhyme or reason to his travels. His interactions with an African-American community in Georgia are also unnecessary narrative filler.
Not all is lost, though. Some of these scenes in the search for President Obama (I’m not kidding) contribute to the main thesis of post-9/11 anti-Muslim prejudice. For instance, Khan’s temporary imprisonment and torture at the hands of paranoid Feds highlight the growing sentiment of American prejudice without becoming too over-the-top and melodramatic. Another sequence concerning Khan rooting out a would-be Islamic extremist is also well orchestrated.
MNIK’s main problem is that, despite these few instances, the second half of the movie is a bore. The action moves at a snail’s pace that never builds to any foreseeable conclusion. It’s clear the lack of musical numbers negatively effects the pacing as well, as most every scene in the latter half of the film blurs together without any set-pieces to moderate pacing or add variety. The action picks up in the last five minutes when Khan finally meets Barack Obama, but it’s hardly the exciting, dramatic climax the story needed.
All things considered, MNK’s ambition far outweighs its storytelling ability, with most of its scenes going nowhere and seemingly thrown together at random. It’s a noble effort for a touchy subject, and Khan gives an admirable try in a lead role that’s decidedly outside his comfort zone, but the story is too lazily written to be worthy of much praise.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: My Name is Khan is a film that means well and has likable characters, but lets them and its admirable themes down with a wandering, nonsensical story and more than a handful of terrible scenes. The lack of any musical numbers doesn’t help the second half’s pacing issues, and wastes its strong music.
— However… commendable cinematography lends some visual flair to the film. The camera does a good job conveying the narrative mood of fear and prejudice.
—> NOT RECOMMENDED
? This movie and Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) 😀 .