My Name is Khan, 2010

Directed by: Karan Johar
I walked back into my apartment about 30 minutes ago and my roommate looked at me and said: “You were only in Vegas for one night?” 
Was I really only gone for 48 hours? 26 of which were spent solely driving and/or catching snippets of sleep at gas stations? I feel like I have traveled much further, and much longer. 
This adventure didn’t seem like it would be so…tiring…when we started out, but I’m exhausted. Regardless, I had a good 12 hours to think about my feelings concerning My Name is Khan on the drive from Vegas to Idaho and I’m going to try to set them as eloquently as I can.
I am a “take it at face value” kind of a movie viewer. I don’t (or can’t, I think I’m starting to find) over analyze, I can suspend my belief incredibly well (Avatar, excepted) so I know I’m going to get some flack for this, but I loved the entire movie. Even the second half. Yep.
By intermission I had cried off all of my waterproof gel-eyeliner (I might add that it is impossibly difficult to get me to cry for any film). By the end of the film I looked at K and L and asked “10:30 showing?”. We saw it twice within 20 minutes of our first viewing ending; but the conversation we had standing outside of the Palms casino (desperate for fresh, cool air) was one of the best conversations I’ve ever had with anyone concerning anything. I don’t know why I feel the need to express this here, other than my desire to get it out of my head, and the coming to terms with something that haunted my early teen years.
My Name is Khan isn’t the love story Shah Rukh and Kajol and Karan have all be touting it to be. Yes, it is a story about a couple and the effects on their life in the pre and post-Septermber 11th world. Yes, it is about the distance a man goes to prove to his wife that he loves her; but to me, it was something deeper, something more meaningful. For me, it was a film that showcased the hope of humanity.
Rizvan’s ideologies are in complete agreement with mine. Regardless of skin tone, religion, ethnicity…etc there are only good people and bad people. Good people are everywhere, bad people are everywhere. Such black and white views of the world may be shockingly…blunt, but it is my view. I don’t write people off because their religion is different than mine, or they speak with an accent. What right do I have to be so forcibly judgmental? We learn about people by what the do, how they act, not because they are grouped into a mass with general characteristics. 
My emotional reaction to My Name is Khan caught me by surprise. I don’t know that I was entirely prepared to relive a very confusing time in my childhood. I grew up with the headquarters for the Islamic Society of North America literally in my back yard. It is all of three miles from my house. The daughters of various leaders were my friends through middle and high school. After September 11th I watched hatred from my community lash out at my friends. Hatred that I knew was inherently wrong.  Despite knowing and associating with these people for years, how did everyone suddenly turn on them and assume their conjunction with such action? 
I, as a twelve year old (was I really that young?) didn’t understand. I had no answers, and I was not in agreement with my adult superiors. Why should I stop talking to my friend just because of her religion?
The scene in the film, the one in the classroom, made my blood boil. I remember sitting in the same situation as my Muslim classmates, with bowed heads, had to listen as teachers indoctrinated my fellow classmates with lies. Teachers who should have known better than to breed hatred. 
Just as the scene where Rizvan’s mother draws the stick people with the lollipop and the stick indicates, we’re all human. If we took the time to care, to change our perceptions and get to know others, if we let people “keep our $500 dollars for the non-Christians”, the would would be utterly different.
I don’t profess to be a Utopian, but there needs to be more tolerance, and more love.
I found My Name is Khan to be a timely film, if in that realm alone.
Perhaps I shall talk about the film now that I’ve gotten that off of my chest? I apologize for the rant, but I was never quite old enough to understand my feelings about September 11th, as I was so young when it happened,  and it was as if this film brought it all back, and I was finally mature enough to understand what I was feeling. 
Theek hai! Filmi stuff from here on out! 
I must give my congratulations to Karan and Shah Rukh and Kajol! This film was stunning from every aspect. The cleanliness of the transitions, the beauty of the shots, characterization, costuming, and performances were on a level that left me in awe. 
Karan Johar has produced a spectacular film. The quality of this film is like I’ve never seen before. Were I to watch it a million more times I could not put into words the cleanliness of the shots and the little tidbits that were touching. There was an obsessive, planned out nature to the cinematography that came across o-so subtly. It was stunningly beautiful on the eyes. 
Shah Rukh completely disappeared under the guise of Rizvan. He has never performed as a character so endearing, and so complex. K’s first emotional reaction to the film came as soon as he appeared on screen. She has an autistic sister and said that his actions, movements, and characteristics were so on point, so true to life, that it caught her off guard and touched her greatly. What research and study had to have gone into this role is mind boggling. It is the performance of his career, if not his lifetime. 
Kajol, I believe, is the only one could have pulled off this role. She was real as Mandira. Some may call her grief over dramatic, but for me, it was tangible. While I did not (and could never) agree with her character’s decision that hate was the answer, it was an honest path for her character to take. While it broke my heart to hear her declare her path, it also resounded within me that it was true-to-life. 
I was glad for the attention paid to the choice Reese had to make. Fearful that such a fundamental part of his character would be forgotten I was pleased by it’s inclusion. It is amazingly human to take something too far before we’ve realized what we have done, and the impact it makes on other’s lives, and on our own individual life as well.
The building up and dissolving and rebuilding of relationships, be it between Rizvan and Mandira; Sameer and Reese; or the Khan and Garick families was sublime.  It added a dimension to the film that I found fascinating. It was another element to the film that showcased the reality of life. 
I do not condone the perpetuation of stereotypes concerning the African American residents in the Georgia scenes. In a film about acceptance and understanding it was a huge snag that left me more than a little put out. 

Also, the songs were not subbed. And we all know how that might be my number one petpeeve of all time. 

The flood, the stabbing, and the media-storm… you know what? I can take them. They didn’t detract in anyway from the film for me. Yes, a little far-fetched and imaginative, but this IS Bollywood, is it not? I understand the desire for the film to be more universal than that, and as far as I’m concerned the goal was achieved. 
My Name is Khan was worth the 30 hours shoved inside my Toyota Matrix and the seemingly unhelpful sleep in the parking lot of a Flying J. It was a film with a message that we need to respond to. We all need to try to be a little more like Rizvan. If we cared a little bit more, and took the effort to look outside of ourselves more often, we could be the bearers of the hope that this film inspires. 

*Update: I’m hardly eloquent, thankfully L is! While not a BollyBlogger she did take some time and post her thoughts about My Name is Khan. They flesh out all of my holes and offer deeper insight into what I was attempting to say. Her post can be found here.

**Also, I understand that my title for my post is not at all in harmony with the timbre (woah, a lot of music terms right there) of my post. That lesson you learn in forth grade about not titling stuff until after it’s written? Yeah, I wasn’t paying attention that day… ;)

***The huge gap at the top of this is making me angry. I’ve tried to fix it. I can’t.

Gratuitous self-promotional pic of K, L and I infront of the Bellagio Fountian…
Though you can’t really tell, our heads are too big :)

10 thoughts on “My Name is Khan, 2010

  1. This is a very interesting and insightful review, Erin. Thanks so much for it.I don't profess to be a Utopian, but there needs to be more tolerance, and more love.Definitely. There's a significant lack of films that try to convey that message. I think MNIK managed to get it across in a simple, but not overly simplistic manner.I still don't like the second half much, but your review makes me want to reconsider, rewatch it and just enjoy the ride this time around.

  2. Absolutely wonderful review! I've been pondering how to write mine up (I think I'll wait until I see it again next weekend), but your post echoes exactly how I felt about the film. I don't even remember when I started crying, but by the end of the day my eyes were so sore I couldn't even put in my contacts the next day. I have been fortunate enough not to experience racial prejudice first hand, but I've always believed that to base judgements on anything besides who a person is inside is just plain wrong. I enjoyed the second half just as much as the first and thought the film as a whole was simply just the most outstanding piece of film ever. It's too bad that some people can't just enjoy the movie at face value, but I guess you can't please everyone.

  3. Wow! I'm glad you had such a great experience with the film, especially because you went to literally great ends to see it! I responded very very differently than you did and thought it had a metric crapload of flaws, but I do agree that the basic point of it was very nice – and, as you say, quite timely.

  4. Anishok: I wish I had the capacity to watch a film critically! I'm definitely an "along to enjoy the ride" type. It's just my nature, I suppose. Ajinkya: Thank you. I was hesitant to post this. It took me an hour before I actually hit "publish". I don't like feeling vulnerable or expressing my self so overtly, but I felt that I had to.Shell: Another viewing! I think seeing it twice with only 20 minutes in-between left me rather numb. I had a migraine from crying through it the first time and the volume in the theatre was above the tolerable level for loud. I don't think I would have been able to look outside of myself so often had I not experienced the hatred and the violence in my school/community after September 11th. It molded me into the person I am today…a bit optimistic, but that's never a bad thing, I don't think. As a film, yes, it's completely outstanding compared to others! Beth: Ahhhh, I knew we had to disagree about something SOMETIME. ;) But that is what so exciting! The differences in people! (And I may or may not have used a bit of self-fulfilling prophesy. I just kept thinking that any movie with a 30 hour drive attached to it HAD to be worth it).

  5. Aw, I LOVED this review!! I love the bits of your own life you added to it… also made me tear up. =(I feel very excited that I came across your blog, too! But it's past midnight and I need to sleep, so I'll be back later. ;)

  6. I had a pretty different experience of MNIK than you did, but of all the reviews out there about why MNIK was a success, I found yours the most heartfelt. I feel as though I GET why you loved it. Kudos.

  7. Thank you Amrita, it really does calm me to know that people can look beyond their own experiences and see it through the eyes of others. I think that's the message of the film, to see things as others do, and to respect it, and love them regardless.

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