FILM REVIEW: Chandni Chowk To China

Chandni Chowk To China is the first ever Bollywood Kung-Fu comedy produced by Warner Bros, who clearly must have had some fabulously energetic young ad exec come up with a genius of an idea for making even more money.
FILM REVIEW: Chandni Chowk To China
Chandni Chowk To China is the first ever Bollywood Kung-Fu comedy produced by Warner Bros, who clearly must have had some fabulously energetic young ad exec come up with a genius of an idea for making even more money. The thought process might have gone something like this – since Bollywood cinema is booming and Kung-Fu films always make money – why don’t we make a Frankenstein-like move and create a Bollywood Kung-Fu epic. An epic that could have the potential be a huge hit across all the major continents – particularly now that the west has started to notice Bollywood. Yes as the title heralds – it’s certainly a journey. As one Indian newspaper wrote: Chandni Chowk To China takes you on a journey from the lanes of Chandni Chowk in Delhi to Shanghai, the Great Wall and rural China, churning in its wake hilarious gags, breathtaking action, spectacular locations and heart-stirring emotions. Akshay Kumar who plays the main character Sidhu is said to be a Box Office darling, and if I was to place him in western cinema, his work reminds me of Jerry Lewis, Will Smith and Adam Sandler. The type of comedy that is simultaneously grating but hilarious. Opposite him the beautiful Deepika Padukone plays a double role as his love interest. And the supporting cast include Mithun Chakraborty , Ranvir Shorey , Gordon Liu and Roger Yuan. The narrative is suitably outlandish. Sidhu (Akshay Kumar) is a potato cutter at a food stall in Chandni Chowk in Delhi. He of course imagines that there surely must be more to life than this, but wrongly (and somewhat ironically) thinks quick bucks are the answer. The audience then watches Sidhu as he nimbly weaves his way from one comedy routine to another – involving burning lottery tickets, tarot readings, and potatoes that look like Budhha. Of course this all leads to comic disaster despite the best advice from his paternal friend Dada. So how does he get to China? Well of course two old peasants beg him to return with them to their village in China to help overthrow the local warlord. Well why not? And so we travel with Sidhu into yet another series of escapades and misadventures – this time in China. There is clearly a soap opera like element to this Bollywood Kung Fu genre, and there needs to be a certain quota of dance, song, fighting, pathos and joy within a two hour cycle. What’s more the ending is not pivotal, rather more a dutiful announcement that everything ends well and that there is a sequel in the air. So will it be a huge success across all borders? I am not sure. The tale is engaging and the acting is great. Akshay Kumar clearly understands his comic ability and his co-actors too seem to all be in on the gag. The production is also clearly big budget – thanks to Warner Bros. However whether there is enough Bollywood for the pure Bollywood fans and enough Kung Fu for the pure King Fu fans is difficult to tell – a big ask in itself perhaps. Chandni Chowk To China is directed by Nikhil Advani, written by Sridhar Raghavan and Rajat Aroraa with cinematography by Himman Dhamija.

Rita Dimasi

Wednesday 21 January, 2009

About the author

Rita Dimasi is an Arts Hub reviewer.