Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dumb aloo from Chandni Chowk

I always thought Khalid Mohammed, noted Indian film critic, was rather over the top with his reviews. He has a particular style that no one can forget - flippant, slang-ridden and full of infuriating rhymes. So when he really slams a movie, I've often been inclined to think he's just doing it for effect, carried away with his own rhetoric. Surely no movie can be as bad as he says.

I don't see that many movies, so I only ended up testing this hypothesis a couple of days ago when I saw "From Chandni Chowk to China". Having just spent the previous weekend climbing the Great Wall of China, I found it tempting to watch a Hindi movie filmed in the same locale. But what a deranged movie. (Warning: following contains spoilers!). Akshay Kumar is a paratha-making country bumpkin from Chandni Chowk who is somehow "recognised" by two Chinese visitors as the re-incarnation of a dead Chinese warrior, Liu Sheng. A village in China that's being persecuted by evil capitalist tyrant Hojo (the Chinese government forgot to exist during this movie) needs Akshay-ji to save them, a la Seven Samurai. In the meanwhile, a Chinese-Indian couple have twin girls who get separated at birth by Hojo's sword-wielding bandits. Both turn into Deepika Padukone, one of them grows up in India and turns out sweet if a wee bit batty, while the other grows up in China and is sort of evil, at least for a while. The father of these girls teaches Akshay how to fight the evil Hojo (why doesn't he just do it himself?). The good Deepika stands on the sidelines dripping enough tears from her shapely cheeks to make up an entire town's daily water supply.

Among countless other faults, the film is deeply insulting to the Chinese. Are we really the most racist nation on earth and if so, will people please shut up about Princes Harry and Charles?

What puzzles me is how a movie this bad ever got to be made with the kind of sponsorship (Warner Bros onwards) it had. Did no one see any part of it on the way? Did the director's family not have the courage to stop him mid-dinner and say "dad (or hubby), if you ever put this film out, people will know you're an imbecile"?

No one should think, though, that the failure lies in the wacky, implausible premise of the movie. Each of the two Munnabhai movies is pretty implausible and very wacky but somehow, between gifted acting, clear direction and (most important) a sparkling script, they worked. I'm tempted to go back and watch them again to clear the demented banality of CC2C from my brain.

Not even the potato (to which Akshay Kumar prays incessantly) could save this movie from being a dumb aloo - as Khalid called it.


sz7 said...

I watched the trailer and found it weird: the director apparently was trying to copy some elements from his Chinese colleagues (please check out Kungfu Hustle, Curse of the Golden Flower, Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) however he failed to realize that stories in those movies were not contemporary (from 2000 years ago's Qin dynasty to 1970s' Hong Kong), a common mistake done by Hollywood directors too.

Anyway I'm not feeling insulted as a Chinese. Why so serious? It's just a movie and it looks fun. And, the girls in the movie are HOT!

Ramanan said...

All of Akshay Kumar movies are dumb, so the goodness of the movie would not have been on Warner Bros' mind. In fact Akshay Kumar himself says regularly on TV that his movies have no sense. I havent watched the movie but the title track (Track No 2 on the audio CD) is a funny song!

Rahul Basu said...

Loosen up, Sunil! Don't take a Bollywood movie, that too with Akshay Kumar, so seriously. I think you should see more Hindi movies, you won't tend to intellectualise them so much then :)