Monday, 19 January 2009

Chandni Chowk to China

Too Much Hustling in this Kung Fu...

When a Chinese village becomes fed up with the dictatorship of tyrant Hojo (Gordon Liu) they decide to free themselves by finding the reincarnation of a legendary Chinese warrior. Their search takes them to India where they stumble upon Sidhu (Akshay Kumar) who bears a similar resemblance to the warrior of old. Sidhu is looking for a way to turn around his poor luck but is tricked into going to China when Chopstick (Ranvir Shorey) purposely mistranslates what the Chinese have to say.

You wouldn't be wrong if you think Chandni Chowk to China is akin to Kung Fu Hustle. Both are about martial arts, and both are parody films that parody subject matter even outside that of martial arts. In fact Chandni Chowk mimics the story and various situations found in Kung Fu Hustle, but it is not quite as masterfully conceived. The story is a fairly standard affair of martial arts films where the protagonist needs to rise to the occasion, learn some killer moves and defeat the enemy. Luckily the scriptwriters did attempt to add some additional subplots to give the film some depth and, in this regard, it works but perhaps a little too well. Besides the journey which is undertaken by Sidhu there is a smaller plot regarding the character Chiang Kohung (Roger Yuan) who has been trying to bring down Hojo but met a sad fate in the process. Kohung's story is used to help Sidhu's along but by the film's end this subplot abundantly more interesting than the main plot. Sadly the characters lack the story's depth and are far more one dimensional except for, would you believe it, Kohung.

In fact Kohung would not be such an amazing character if it were not for the equally amazing acting by Roger Yuan. Not only does he act confidently but his martial arts talent is fluid and precise. It's difficult to imagine that he has landed so few roles in his career and hopefully Chandni Chowk gets him more exposed. Yuan's opposite, Gordon Liu shows off his abundant knowledge of the film industry with a performance that emphasizes his characters subdued evil. It becomes a strange occurrence indeed when these two Chinese actors have better performances in a Bollywood film than the two titles stars: Akshay Kumar and Deepika Padukone. Padukone has a double role as both Sakhi and Meow Meow but her screen time is surprisingly limited and it's obvious that she is eager to explode her roles into something more then she is allowed. And then there is Kumar, who does not perform badly for he is suited to his role, but he overacts far too much. Presumably to heighten the comedy, the problem Kumar faces by the films close is that he never has control of it. He is so busy trying to find ways to make people laugh that he forgets that he is playing what is possibly one of the most annoying characters ever to grace cinema.

That said, the humour is abundant, regardless of whether Kumar exaggerates his role or not. But this is not to say that the humour is of a high level throughout, for most of the time the humour is based on sheer stupidity. This is not exactly problematic but anyone expecting something akin to Kung Fu Hustle, which itself also had its share of stupidity for laughs, might be a little peeved at the little genuinely original comedy.

Though what doesn't help matters is the poor implementation of CG. From the introduction showcasing the Great Wall of China to the water effects used for a special move Sidhu learns, the CG is always out of place. The special effects tend to work better but are used sparingly.

On top of that the music selection for the film is very poor and the dance sequences themselves are not any better. Sure Deepkia Padukone can look incredibly sexy during these sequences but the music is only goes to make the worse then what it actually is. Coupled with the fact that music is used inappropriately in some scenes, such as in the final fight, the end result is a Bollywood film which should have gone against the norm.

Chandni Chowk is an all round family film with no sex, nudity or language. Violence is mostly in the form of martial arts and one character does have a weapon that he uses to slice the neck of some victims but this is quite tame.

Simply put, Chandni Chowk to China is a disappointing film especially when its taken into consideration that it was delayed from its original release in October/ November last year. It is difficult to tell if any additions were made because nothing really gels well for the film as a whole. The acting is passable, with the Chinese actors being the highlight; the story is decent but is overshadowed by a mere subplot; and the music selection is shocking. That said the film has some of the best action sequences in a Bollywood film with the martial arts being fun to watch and the film is comedic throughout. However it should be advised that one's enjoyment of the film depends merely on their temperament for stupidity.


Screen date: 18 January 2009
Release date: 16 January 2009

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