Have you ever dreamed of being more than your circumstances? Sidhu (Askay Kumar) longs to escape his dreary existence cutting vegetables at a road-side food stand in Chandni Chowk, one of the oldest and busiest markets in Delhi, India. When two strangers from China proclaim he is the reincarnation of a Chinese war hero, Sidhu envisions fame, fortune and adventure. Journeying with them back to China, Sidhu meets the alluring Sakhi (Deepika Padukone) and love blossoms. But can it survive the vicious smuggler, Hojo (Gordon Liu) and his cadre of kung-fu assassins? Megalomaniacal villains, crazy inventors, Chinese mystics and outlandish kung-fu assassins all get thrown together in this joyful, uplifting adventure full of beautiful landscapes, attention-grabbing songs, and high energy dancing.
Take the usual ingredients of a Bollywood movie- comedy, dance and melodrama, add a dash of kung fu into the mix and you have yourself the makings of an international blockbuster. Well, at least I guess that was the intention of Warner Bros, who chose this madcap slapstick comedy of a movie to be the first Bollywood movie financed and distributed by the studio.
Alas what appears at first to be a sure fire hit turns out instead to be a misfire, and the thing is, it doesn’t take long before you realise that. As if high on steroids, “Chandni Chowk to China” begins too frantically on the streets of the Chandni Chowk marketplace in Delhi where a lowly vegetable cutter Sidhu (Akshay Kumar) is looking for a change of fortune. You can tell Sidhu’s desperate when he even claims to have seen Lord Ganesh appear in a potato.
But you can also tell that director Nikhil Advani is desperate when he piles on slapstick after slapstick without realising how unfunny some of the stunts are. What’s more, Advani repeats some of the better jokes for far too long, so much so that they outlast their welcome. Watching Sidhu’s stern father Dada kick him up into the clouds (where Sidhu’s head rightfully belongs) may have inspired a chuckle or two the first and second time, but by the fourth consecutive round, it is simply tiring.
Not that the movie doesn’t try to distract you from how vapid it really is. When its characters are not dancing in tourist-friendly locations dressed in exotic Chinese costumes, they are busy kicking and fighting their enemies. But besides the catchy theme song of the same title, the rest of the song-and-dance sequences unfortunately do little to dazzle. Ditto the numerous action scenes which, while entertaining, offer nothing that kung fu fans have not seen before.
Despite boasting the star power of one of Bollywood’s most successful actors, Akshay Kumar’s comic timing is more painful than funny in this movie. Much of it is less his fault than that of the insipid script and its many jokes that simply fall flat. Still, Kumar fails to make his character likeable enough for audiences to be engaged. Instead, he is upstaged by his very beautiful co-star Deepika Padukone who impresses in a dual role as the TV-commercial star Sakhi and her twin sister Meow Meow.
The marriage of kung fu and Bollywood may have been an inspired idea but this messy and unfunny execution makes it a fusion dish gone bad. No matter how broad its appeal may have been meant to be, a bad movie is still a bad movie, regardless of whether you’re in Chandni Chowk, China or any other part of the world.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
Excellent visual transfer brings alive the bright and colourful images of the movie. The Dolby 5.1 audio is also a treat, creating a nice immersive atmosphere especially during the dancing and action sequences.
by Gabriel Chong
Posted on 1 June 2009