Last week, most film analysts had called Chennai Express "more than nonsensical" and "simply insufferable" which "doesn't stop piling on the misery till the last scene" but had predicted that it would do a business of Rs 100 crore and more, the new benchmark of success in Bollywood, because it was a Rohit Shetty film. The film has done that and more. It did box office sale of over Rs 100 crore in just four days -one day less than Salman Khan's Ek Tha Tiger, another mindless caper. Chennai Express has rehabilitated Shah Rukh Khan as India's top entertainer, catapulted Deepika Padukone into the league of the topmost heroines and cemented Shetty's position as India's most reliable director.
Till date, only 22 Bollywood films have done business of Rs 100 crore or more. Out of these, four have been made by Shetty: Glomaal 3, Singham, Bol Bachchan and Chennai Express. He has gathered no critical acclaim for his oeuvre, and won no noteworthy award. Purists grudgingly admit that his cinematography is not bad. The dresses are always in bright colours. Flying SUVs is common in his films. His forte is comedy and action. In fact, action is in Shetty's DNA. His father was Bollywood's famous villain and fight master, (MB) Shetty. (Such was his impact that all bald men across the country would be instantly called Shetty.)
Rohit Shetty, 40, made his debut as assistant director in Phool aur Kaante in 1991 with Ajay Devgn, an actor with whom he made many movies subsequently. His first movie as a director, Zameen in 2003, also had Devgn in the lead role. But he found his mojo in comedy. Shetty shot to fame with his Golmaal series of comedy films. After the first of the series, made in 2006, became a hit, he directed two others: Golmaal Returns (2008) and Golmaal 3 (2010). All three had Devgn in the lead. His next two big hits, Singham (2011) and Bol Bachchan (2012) too had Devgn as the main actor. In fact, Shetty's 2009 film, All the Best, was produced by Devgn. And Devgn also co-produced Bol Bachchan.
To his credit, Shetty doesn't let the humour in his films lapse into double entendre and vulgarity. The jokes are harmless and clean. A family man himself (he is married to banker Maya More and has a son), he believes his strength lies in the fact that from kids to the elderly, everyone can see his films without squirming. Apart from slapstick humour and action, another trademark of Shetty's movies is the behind-the-scenes footage that accompanies the end credits.
While many claim that his movies do not stimulate intellectually and are basically imports from the south, Shetty is steadfast in his conviction while making films. He has always maintained that he makes movies that provide a dose of laughter and some high-voltage action, and has delivered the same time and again. Despite being hugely successful in Bollywood, Shetty is rarely seen or heard when he is not working. As the man himself puts it, he is like Superman: he comes, does his work and then goes back to his world. He knows success is a slippery mistress and that if one of his films goes wrong, a lot of people who yearn for his company right now may not want to have anything to with him. That's why he prefers to keep to himself and a bunch of friends from the industry (Devgn, Abhishek Bachchan and Sanjay Dutt, among others). To that list will now be added the name of Shahrukh Khan- Shetty, after all, has given a new lease of life to the 47-year-old actor's career.