Karan Johar’s “My Name Is Khan” is a sweeping epic in the melodramatic Bollywood manner yet emerges as a potent, engaging and timely entertainment. Shahrukh Khan stars as Rizwan Khan, whose Asperger’s syndrome goes undiagnosed until the death of his loving mother sends him off to San Francisco to live with his younger brother, whose psychologist wife makes the diagnosis.
Having been raised with affection and sensitivity, Khan, who is well-educated and exceptionally intelligent, is already high-functioning. Ultra-sensitive to noise, he may be petrified by the clanging of a cable car bell until he understands what it is, and his ability to express emotion may be muted, but it turns out that he’s a surprisingly successful salesman for the Indian herbal beauty products company for which his brother is an executive. He feels compelled to tell the truth no matter what, and his candor in regard to what his line of cosmetics can and cannot do amusingly beguiles the beautiful Mandira (Kajol), who owns and operates a busy beauty salon. Pretty soon, the shyly handsome Khan has won the heart of Mandira, a single mother with a small son -- and a bad marriage in her past.
When a client who lives in a small town outside San Francisco offers to put up the money to open a salon in that community Mandira accepts, and soon the new family is living the suburban American dream -- until Sept. 11. Mandira is a Hindu, Khan is a Muslim, and at this point the film evolves from the story of a man with Asperger’s learning to live a successful, happy life to that of a man who embarks, in the wake of tragedy and violence, on an odyssey to declare to President Obama, “I am a Muslim and I am not a terrorist.”
“My Name Is Khan” is a potent, energetic heart-tugger and Khan and Kajol, major Bollywood stars, are highly appealing and equal to the demand of their emotion-charged roles.