Want to see a real romance that makes you laugh and cry and root for the heroes and is beautifully shot and full of all the things that Hollywood feel-good films lack? My Name is Khan has got your number.
Rizvan Khan, played by the handsome
Their courtship is awkward, lovely, and funny, as she tests him to show her something in San Francisco that she's never seen before. If he wins, she'll marry him; when he finally does, she asks him to marry her. Love conquers all, for them; neither she nor her son, Sameer, even question Khan's Asperger's symptoms, and, in fact, one of the few missteps in the movie are when it's is played for laughs. Otherwise, Shah Rukh Khan's portrayal of Asperger's - from his avoidance of eye contact, reluctance to touch or be touched, repetition of phrases, and fear of crowds and loud noises - seems fairly accurate to this untrained eye. His Khan is an understated
But this is before 9/11 and before a Muslim last name, a Muslim husband, or a Muslim step-dad means too much to world at large. After 9/11, of course, this all changes, but what's perhaps most interesting is the
9/11 tears Mandira and Khan apart. The name of the movie is taken from his repeated phrase, "My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist." Mandira, in a gesture of sheer frustration, tells him to go tell the president. So Khan puts on his sneakers and goes to do just that.
The movie wanders more towards Forrest Gump territory in this second half as Khan's attempts to meet the President are thwarted at every turn. However, while Khan does serve up increasingly out-there plot twists, the political subtext and Khan's own
Khan builds to such a crescendo that by the time I left the theater 2 hours and 35 minutes later, not counting the intermission, I was exhausted by the whirlwind of events and emotions. I left drained, slightly tear-stained, but happy. Seeing it at a theater that specializes in Asian and Indian cinema, filled with families and couples whose ethnicities and religions were as varied as those onscreen, added to the pleasure of watching such a hopeful, lovely movie. It was a pleasure and a departure from my typical movie-going experience.
Incidentally, My Name is Khan opened this weekend to the tune of $1.86M as of this writing on just 120 screens in the US. I hope more people take the time to watch this movie that left me feeling good long after I left the theater. For more info, check out the official website.