On making his latest film, director/producer Aziz Mirza writes, “Chalte Chalte does not strive to make any statements. It is a simple film that deals with basic human emotions.” He continues, “It is about the everyday experiences that we all at some point of our lives encounter with our partners.”
With that I was excited, hoping for a Bollywood version of All the Real Girls. But in the end I was disappointed by the simplistic route Mirza takes with regards to plotting and the lack of unique situations that might have made Chalte Chalte feel more genuine.
Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) is a simple man. He owns a transport company and lives by his work. Priya (Rani Mukherjee) is an up-and-coming fashion designer with a taste for the more complicated things in life. Despite their differences, the two hit it off and embark on a rocky relationship built on a mountain-valley approach of high highs and low lows.
Chalte Chalte is a simple love story recalled by a group of mutual friends. This makes Raj and Priya’s relationship a modern myth that skews towards romance and sentimentality. It tries to be universal and in the process loses out on the unique aspects of love that make it personal and real.
A staple of Bollywood is big-time melodramatics so loud major plot points might as well be announced by a marching band and a seven-gun salute. But every time it seems as though there’s some build up in Chalte Chalte, the resolution pops the tension instantly and the story moves on to another high-drama point. I would have rather seen a couple of situations built up instead of the many that are touched upon and discarded. It cheapens the audience’s reactions as I found myself getting wrapped up in a couple of the conflicts only to have them end so simply and with great dissatisfaction.
With a near three-hour running time, typical for Bollywood films, Chalte Chalte runs its course by the first intermission. It has the feel of a standard Hollywood romantic comedy, only with the occasional out-of-the-blue musical number and drawn out to maximum lengths.
Khan is one of the biggest names in Bollywood today and it’s not hard to understand why, even if Raj is a big-time goofball. Despite having a fluffy role in Chalte Chalte, is a Bollywood Benigni. Khan’s facial expressions and flamboyant gestures are over-the-top an unintentionally humorous at times, but I’ll take laughs where I can get them. On the other end of the marquee, there was something about Chawla is horrendously miscast. She’s beautiful but plays her role too much the victim even though things aren’t that bad. Her constant whining and high-pitched voice didn’t help much either.
As Bollywood continues to become more and more available in the West, I do hope they adopt a more Western approach to filmmaking as far as time goes. Had Chalte Chalte finished at intermission I would have been satisfied. It’s simple story is easily satisfying in small chunks. But at three hours it drag out far too long, which puts a microscope to the film’s many flaws as they repeat over and over again. Despite Mirza’s comments and my hopes of All the Real Girls: The Musical, Chalte Chalte hasn’t made me give up on experiencing Bollywood altogether. It’s just reminded me once again not to get my hopes up too high.
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