Jul 7, 2015

My Name is Khan- Review

My Name is Khan is a movie that reminded me what movies should be about: not just entertainment, not just art--but messages. And boy, did this movie deliver them.

If--when watching this--you don't shed a tear, or if you don't at least feel the back of your throat closing up with the promise of oncoming tears ... well.

Rizwan Khan is an autistic (Asperger's Syndrome) muslim living in India. When his mother--the only one who loves him for who he is without any reservation--dies, he goes to America to live with his brother. There, he meets and falls in love with single-mom Mandira, and makes a new friend out of her son, Sam. Then 9/11 happens. And then a consequential incident of discrimination follows that leaves Mandira distraught enough to set Khan on a wild-goose chase. She tells Khan that if he ever wants to come back to her side, he would have to find the President of the United States and tell him personally that he is not a threat to the country. And because Khan takes things literally, he actually does. The movie is basically his journey to accomplish this mission... an odyssey, if you will. Though obviously one with less nymphs and sirens.

As Khan himself says in the movie...
[His] name is Khan (from the epiglottis). And [he] is not a terrorist. 
Khan is an awkward character to watch, but he's also endearing. He takes things literally, and he doesn't give up. He has Asperger's, so he's also special. He grew up with very few people understanding him, and accepting him, especially with the religious conflicts in his region. He hates the color yellow. He's not big on hugs. He is also a horrible salesman. But above all, he is a good man. And I started cheering for him the minute I realised that. The minute his mother, Razia, told him:
There are only two kinds of people in this world. Good people who do good deeds. And bad people who do bad. That's the only difference in human beings. There's no other difference. 
And he "understood."


  • Love vs. Hate: Because of who he is, Khan does something that a normal person wouldn't. A normal person would give up long before he even started. His tenacity is admirable ... but it's also important to understand that his tenacity is spurred from love (for Mandira). He was raised to judge people based on their actions, and not let anything else cloud his judgement. And despite him being the minority in almost every way, Khan is proactive. He is an example of what is currently happening and what could be. He becomes the small percentage that causes the biggest change. He becomes someone who speaks up for countless others (without even knowing it). And he does all of this because he loves instead of hate. As cliche as this phrase is, it holds some merit: love conquers all. 
  • Discrimination vs. Tolerance: There are lots of religious conflicts here, which means things can get messy. But the movie handles it so skilfully that they are able to show an important truth. People can live together even if they are very different--so long as there's tolerance, if nothing more. The movie showcases Islam in a positive way that is very rarely done in films. What makes it so special is that there is true acceptance and love from two different sides. Khan, a muslim, loves and accepts Mandira, a Hindu. And she, vice versa. Because of their simple tolerance and understanding of one another's religious beliefs, there is real peace. Tangible and achievable peace. Peace that the movie tries so hard to prove is possible. And it really is. 
  • Autism on the Big Screen: Unfortunately, not a lot of people know about Autism. Or that it can be different in many ways. Khan is autistic. More specifically, Khan has Asperger's Syndrome. His actions in the movie properly align with actions real autistic kids display. This movie is a huge step in promoting international awareness. But more importantly, it's a good way to witness the hardships and mistreatments that autistic and special needs kids would typically go through. Khan is very different from those around him. Some people can't handle that. They don't know how to treat him, or how to love him. Others make fun of him and scold him. But there are few who take him in as he is, nurturing his growth. Khan's mother, Razia, is a great example of this. An example that should be mimicked and applied in real life.

The characters are solid, as is the plot. Though the film isn't chronologically structured, it is easy to follow. The narration, given by the main character from the future point, helps frame the setting instead of getting in the way of the action. It was easy to lose myself in the storyline, and it was particularly so because the actors' performances were that good. The director, Karan Johar, did an equally impressive job with showcasing his own vision of the story. You can feel everyone's efforts holding the movie together, but with all this effort ... comes time. And a lot of it. Like all other Indian movies, My Name is Khan is long. There is no exception here, since it's almost three hours long... which is the average length of an Indian movie. Keep that in mind when watching the film. It may seem like the story pace is slow--and at times it is--but it's still worth watching all the way through. The only issue that confused me was minor enough to be ignored, but still disorienting. In the beginning, the President appeared to be someone like George W. Bush. Then, later in the film, they portrayed someone who appeared more like Obama. It's a small goof, but it was enough to make me feel a jump in time. Especially since that is a big role in the story.

I'm still new to Bollywood, and I haven't watched many Indian movies. But I've seen enough to know that this one is unlike its predecessors. This movie isn't big on dancing and singing. That would ruin the serious atmosphere. This movie isn't really there to entertain you for three hours of your life. No, this movie is using those three hours to convey a message with a stronger impression than you would expect. Some things you just have to see for yourself. For someone who isn't really accustomed to watching Indian movies, this is a good transition and is simple to digest. After watching, I realised--and in the context of the movie's own quote--that:

"There are two kinds of [films] in this world. Good [films that promote] good deeds. And bad [films that] do bad. That's the only difference in films."

And this one is definitely a good film.

Besides, Shah Rukh Khan (Bollywood's top actor) is in this. It's practically impossible to hate anything he stars in. Call me biased, or ... simply impressed.