Monday, February 15, 2010

My Name Is Khan partial review

I'm terrible with reviews, we all know that.

And I can't talk about My Name is Khan as a whole without spoiling it, plus I'm never sure what is and what is not a spoiler, so here are my thoughts on what worried me the most going in. (Not terrorism, terrorism in America, or immigrants in America - that's been done so many times in Bollywood.)

The title character has Asperger's Syndrome (AS). The director is Karan Johar - I've seen most of his movies and love them (Dostana is hilarious, though clearly in a parallel America where a man in a military uniform can admit to being gay!), but other people paid to review films don't always love his movies. They are emotionally manipulative, and subtle as a two by four upside your head. But some things don't need to be subtle. Plus, (for me) it was a good cry. I identified with these fictional characters and cried, I didn't have flashbacks to bad times like I did with Taare Zameen Par (which dealt with dyslexia).

Anyways, this will be the third time I've posted these comments. I originally posted them in the Chatterday open thread at FWD because another commenter asked for my thoughts.

Then I c&p'd it for Bollywhat when someone asked in the spoiler thread how AS was treated.

I haven't read professional reviews, but I have read what other members of BollyWHAT have said about the movie. It's not universally loved, but everyone loved SRK's performance and the problems in the movie have nothing to do with AS and how it's portrayed, but other things.

Here is what I wrote soon after seeing it:

Onto the Asperger’s Syndrome. Rizvan Khan (SRK) takes the time in the first half to introduce himself to the people at Mandira’s (Kajol) job – this is what he has, this is who it’s named after, he is not “pagal”, he is smart. At one point, Mandira tells him to stop with this “loop” and the “encyclopedia.”

He takes things literally, which is why he’s doing what he’s doing – he can’t go home until he does what Mandira tells him to do. (which comes after a heart wrenching scene – so quiet in the theater) He hates the color yellow and loud sounds. He also repeats what people say when he can’t come up with something himself (especially related to emotions) or he reverts back to the encyclopedia.

He can repair almost anything, so his “genius” overshadows his brother, resentment, etc, but his mother loves him and gets him a private tutor because the other students at school are jerks.

We see two tools he uses so the world isn’t too much – ear plugs, of course, but a video camera, because as his SIL tells him (she teaches psychology and gets him an official diagnosis), it’s like the world is on TV, so it won’t be so scary. (This is soon after he moves to America, San Francisco, noise people noise!)

What was really touching was the disclaimer at the beginning – something like this is not the definitive behavior for AS, this is a fictional story about one man.

He is not cured, he does not “overcome” his disability, and he is the main character, he does not teach those around him to “live life to the fullest.” He does help people, but not because he’s autistic, but because he helps them. By doing things. Like… *drumroll* anybody else!

So there were some iffy moments (so much jammed in the last 30 minutes) but overall, a great movie and I think a great representation of somebody with Asperger’s.

And I thought it would be cool to put a kind of review on my blog.

The bolded part is the most important to me - PWD are inspiring just because they have disabilities in most pop culture narratives and movies. Rizvan is inspiring because of what he does, because of what happens to him, but not because he has AS.