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'Chennai Express' Breaks Bollywood Opening Weekend Box Office Record, Why World's Biggest Movie Star Is Shah Rukh Khan

Thompson on Hollywood By Anne Thompson and David Chute | Thompson on Hollywood August 12, 2013 at 3:09PM

Romantic action comedy "Chennai Express" broke all stateside Bollywood box office records last weekend with $2,225,000 in 196 locations and a huge $11,352 per screen average. The old record of $1,944,027 had been held since 2010 by "My Name is Khan," also starring Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan. "Chennai Express" also beat the five-day Christmas holiday weekend opening of $2,149,227 for 2009’s "3 Idiots," starring Aamir Khan, which holds the record for the largest lifetime gross for a Bollywood film with a cume of $6,533,849. (Review round up, Hey Guys video interview and trailer are below.)

On paper, "Chennai Express" is as safe a bet as blockbusters get: a director with a string of hits to his name (Rohit Shetty) working with two huge movie stars (Shahrukh Khan and Deepika Padukone) whose previous collaboration yielded commercial and critical success (2007's "Om Shanti Om"). Add romance, comedy, action, and adventure, and you should be all set. Although Hollywood has seen would-be blockbusters falter this year, most of those were either prohibitively expensive to begin with, in unpopular genres, or marketed poorly (if at all). "Chennai Express" would seem to have none of those issues, and the only business-related question remaining is whether it's going to be a big hit, or an enormous hit.


The humor is pretty one-note in Rohit Shetty’s comedy/romance/actioner “Chennai Express.” Cast as a sheltered 40-year-old suddenly thrust into multiple perilous situations, superstar Shah Rukh Khan repeatedly reacts with craven cowardice and flashes of false bravado; though played for laughs, his behavior comes across more as moral laxity than hilarious evasiveness. It doesn’t help that co-star Deepika Padukone is so likable as the rebellious daughter of a southern don, rendering the antipathy between their characters somewhat gratuitous. This North-South culture-clash laffer set an opening-day B.O. record in India with $1.1 million (beating the previous champ, “3 Idiots”), but elsewhere, its popularity may depend on audiences’ willingness to wait two hours for Khan to transform into his heroic self.

The New York Times: 

“Chennai Express” feels like a sumptuous meal with carefully chosen wine and tasty appetizers but a botched main course. Money and visual care have been lavished on this Bollywood action-comedy-romance and glossy stars engaged (Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone). But the movie chugs along for most of its 2 hours and 20 minutes searching for comedy and characters in a frantically overplotted story.

This article is related to: Bollywood , My Name is Khan, Box Office, Box Office, Box Office, Shah Rukh Khan

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.