Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Trust Me, I Am Here

Main Hoon Na; action / drama / comedy / musical, India, 2004; D: Farah Khan, S: Shah Rukh Khan, Zayed Khan, Amrita Rao, Sushmita Sen, Suniel Shetty, Kirron Kher, Boman Irani

In a TV studio, general Bakshi announces a plan to resolve the India-Pakistani conflict in a project of releasing prisoners on both sides. However, a Hindu nationalist, ex-Major Raghavan, storms the studio and kills the father of Major Ram. Bakshi gives Ram, who is in his 30s, the assignment to pose as a student and secretly watch over Bakshi's daughter, Sanjana, fearing Raghavan might strike her college next. Ram has troubles adapting to the life on college, yet falls in love with the chemistry teacher, Ms. Chandini. He also finds out he is an illegitimate child when his father had an affair, and thus wants to make up with his brother, student Lucky, and stepmother. When Raghavan disguises himself as a teacher and takes students and the principal as hostages in the college, Ram manages to save them and kill Raghavan. The prisoner exchange thus takes place.

A blend of "Back to School" and "Bodyguard", "Trust Me, I Am Here" is a highly unusual patchwork that decides it wants to combine two polar opposites, ranging from a serious action drama bravely tackling the taboo topic of the India-Pakistani conflict up to a cheerful and merry teen-comedy, resulting in a film that works sometimes, yet definitely feels overlong with its running time of three hours whereas it simply lacks highlights. The concept of Major Ram (sympathetic Shah Rukh Khan) having to feign to be a student to protect Sanjana is sweet, yet it bizarrely avoided the natural conclusion, namely that they would fall in love, and instead focused on Ram falling in love with the chemistry teacher, which left him somewhat disengaged and distanced from Sanjani and her friends. The subplot of Ram meeting his half-brother Lucky was clumsily shoehorned into the film, resulting in too much melodramatic and kitschy moments near the end, while it also suffers from several weakly written stereotypes — the idea that Sanjani is estranged from her father just because he wanted a son is a cliche, whereas it is highly unlikely that the mother would not recognize Ram, her stepson. Unfortunately, the writers were not quite inspired when bringing this sweet concept to life, since not much happens in college, anyway, except for superfluous dancing. A sequence in the professor's lounge illustrates the film's uneven tone: one of the best jokes  — a middle-aged professor laments about the popular Ms. Chandini, the new chemistry teacher ("If she is Ms. Moonshine, then I am Ms. Moon eclipse!") — is immediately followed by one lame one, the one where an overweight teacher spits while talking, and thus Ram bends and dodges his saliva in slow-motion, "Matrix" style. Too many of such corny jokes take up too much time, while some good ones are absent. Likewise, the way Ram finishes off the bad guy is too similar of the way the villain is eliminated in Coen's "Raising Arizona". "Trust Me, I Am Here" is a solid and easily watchable, but also easily forgettable flick, where a lot more of potentials were left unexplored or underdeveloped.


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