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

December 4, 2020

Cheeni Kum review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 4:46 pm

May 25, 2007

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Tabu, Paresh Rawal

Director: R Balakrishnan

In ad-man R Balki’s debut feature film Cheeni Kum, Amitabh Bachchan plays a chef and the owner of the finest Indian restaurant in London.

He starts off on the wrong foot with Tabu, a tourist from India and a patron at his restaurant one night, but over the course of many dates, the couple decides to get married.

Bachchan, whose character in the film’s named Buddhadev Gupta is 64, while Tabu’s character is 34.

Naturally that’s bound to raise a few eyebrows, especially those of Tabu’s dad, played by Paresh Rawal who reacts rather dramatically to say the least.

But can you blame him, the boy her daughter’s brought home to marry is six years older than he is!

First things first, I think it’s great that someone decided to make a film with food as a backdrop.

Hindi movies have rarely used food and chefs and restaurants as themes, and it’s a pity because food is something that everyone loves so you know you’ve got everyone’s attention from the start.

To digress just a little bit, you must watch one of Ang Lee’s earliest films – Eat Drink Man Woman which is a beautiful film about how a father uses food to keep his family together.

Getting back to Cheeni Kum, I like the manner in which the director establishes his characters right up front, without wasting any time.

We get right away that Buddha is a man who takes great pride in his profession, his restaurant is pretty much his life, and he doesn’t compromise on anything when it comes to the quality of the food he serves.

We also understand that in Tabu, he’s met his match. She’s warm and friendly, yes, but she’s also opinionated and she knows how to put him in his place.

The director also easily establishes the relationship Buddha shares with his mum, the feisty and quick-witted Zohra Sehgal with whom he’s constantly but affectionately bickering.

I think I can also understand and appreciate the relationship the director sets up between Buddha and his six-year-old neighbour, the only female who seems to truly understand him.

Now the thing is, this track could have been clever and engaging, but it doesn’t quite end up that way because the child actor in that role is irritating and precocious and I don’t know about you but I don’t take easily to kids who behave like adults – kids should be kids.

My other problem with Cheeni Kum is the character of Paresh Rawal who comes off as such a cliché, which in all honesty may not have been so difficult to digest in another film.

But in a picture like this where every other character seems broad-minded and unconventional, did we really need Paresh to be such an old-school Bollywood stereotype?

I have both bouquets and brickbats for the film’s dialogue which is at first hilarious, because it’s clever and full of smart one-liners, but have you heard that phrase – too much of a good thing?

Well, what happens eventually is that the director and the writers fall so much in love with their own clever lines that they completely overdo it.

Every single character utters only these sharp repartees, and as a result, every single character sounds the same. Now that’s not how all people speak, so by the end of the film the dialogue begins to get on your nerves.

Yet there are some scenes in the film that are priceless – like that scene in which Tabu comes over to the restaurant for Buddha’s birthday cake-cutting.

Or then that genius scene in the park when she asks him to run to the other end and then tells him why.

To some extent even that scene in which Buddha stops at the chemist before his date with Tabu. These are the few moments in Cheeni Kum that you will take back with you.

It’s really in the film’s second half that you finally throw your hands up in exasperation. Paresh Rawal’s age jokes are humorous to begin with, but when he cracks twenty of them in five minutes, they’re just not funny anymore.

The worst however, is still to come – the satyagraha. That’s an absolutely stupid idea and it’s stretched out unnecessarily, much like Buddha’s lecture to Paresh Rawal in the end.

The impression I get is that the director started off with an interesting idea, a concept, but he just didn’t know what to do with it after a while, he had no idea how to tie it all up.

And therein lies the truth actually, that Cheeni Kum is not so much a film as it is an interesting concept. For it to be a complete film, it needed a tight screenplay which is sorely missing here.

Just when you think the film’s finally coming to an end, you have that embarrassing scene at the Qutub which is really the final blow.

I can’t understand why nobody associated with this film had the good sense to point out that the screenplay’s such a mess.

At the end when you’re leaving the cinema, while you appreciate the effort to tell a new story, you have to ask – where is the story?

The biggest problem with Cheeni Kum is after all, that there is no plot. And yet the director drags it on for so, so long. A film like this – weak on script, strong on treatment – might have stood some chance if it was much shorter, but this one just never seems to end!

It’s the chemistry between Amitabh Bachchan and Tabu that is unquestionably the film’s saving grace. Both fantastic actors, they rise above the fractured script and they seize your attention every time they’re on screen.

A mention also has to be made of Krishna Bhatt, the actor who plays Colgate, the buck-toothed waiter at Buddha’s restaurant – he’s absolutely spot-on with his timing and he’s one of the few real reasons to laugh in Cheeni Kum.

I won’t completely write-off the film because I do think some entertainment can be taken from it’s first half, but clearly this is one of those films that could have been so much more.

So I’ll go with two out of five for R Balki’s Cheeni Kum, it’s an average entertainer at best. If you’re a die-hard Bachchan fan, do give it a shot because he doesn’t disappoint. How you wish the film didn’t either!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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