Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

January 16, 2009

Chinese torture

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 7:34 pm

January 16, 2009

Director: Nikhil Advani

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Ranvir Shorey, Mithun Chakraborty

Chandni Chowk To China is a big, bloated misadventure of a movie with a string of set pieces instead of a plot. There are too many gags, too many action scenes, too many item songs, and too much of everything, in fact. The film’s biggest crime, if you ask me, is that it’s an exercise in excess.

Akshay Kumar stars as Sidhu, a down-on-his-luck street-side cook in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk who some Chinese tourists mistake for the reincarnation of their ancient warrior who alone can defend their village against the kung-fu crime-lord Hojo (played by Chinese actor Gordon Liu). Encouraged and abetted by Ranvir Shorey playing con artist Chopstick, Sidhu leaves behind his father (Mithun Chakraborty) and heads off to China, where much chaos ensues.

Inspired liberally from Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle, the comedy in Chandni Chowk To China, although largely slapstick, is enjoyable for the sheer good-natured goofiness Akshay brings to his character. I’m reminded of that scene in the aircraft where he repeatedly attempts to slam shut a stubborn overhead locker, or then that ingenious song sequence in which he fobs off the bad guys in his bumbling, drunken state. The film’s first hour is lighthearted and simple and most of the humor’s derived from Sidhu’s clumsiness and ineptitude. It’s when the film enters its second hour that the cracks begin to show.

The track involving the estranged twin sisters — both played by Deepika Padukone — and their reunion with their beggar father is too convoluted and distracting, and it takes away from the film’s central story.

The screenplay also spends too much time on secondary characters like Hojo and Chopstick, whose pointless sub-plots only add to the film’s daunting length. While there’s no question most of the kung-fu scenes are neatly choreographed, there’s a good chance you’ll wish they weren’t so repetitive and unending.

In a nutshell, Chandni Chowk To China is a tiring watch because it’s an old formula only re-packaged in an East-meets-East avatar. The star of the film and really the only reason it doesn’t entirely fail, is Akshay Kumar who is in such good form you wish they wrote better material for him. His timing is pitch-perfect and he’s not afraid of looking foolish, as a result he pulls off some pretty good stuff. Deepika Padukone, despite the double role, is only ornamental in the film, but she makes a pretty sidepiece.

Throw in those breathtaking scenes filmed at the Great Wall of China, and you have something to remember after all. But what sticks with you when you leave the cinema after a screening of Chandni Chowk To China is the feeling of fatigue that comes from being trapped in an elevator for hours.

I’m going with two out of five for director Nikhil Advani’s loud, indulgent comedy Chandni Chowk To China. Watch it if you’re an Akshay Kumar fan, he doesn’t disappoint even if the film does.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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