36 China Town
Saturday, May 06, 2006 11:00 IST
By Santa Banta News Network
by Subhash K Jha

Starring Akshaye Khanna, Kareena Kapoor, Shahid Kapoor, Johnny Lever, Tenaaz Lal, Paresh Rawal, Payal Rohatgi & Upen Patel
Directed by Abbas-Mustan
Rating: **

From the master-thrillers comes this brisk and bouncy rib-tickler that purports to be a comic whodunit. Admittedly some portions of the narrative keep you smiling and some make you bite your nail in suspense.

This is pleasurable silliness masquerading as a whodunit. To that extent it works, though you never know why the film had to have the title that it has when in fact Chinatown plays no part in it. Sure paper dragons float by in the climatic song and we see some mongoloid faces in the chorus line.

But er....is that all that its takes to create Chinatown?

Maybe Abbas-Mustan wanted the film to be more stylish than the other films. For Sure,the ambience is saturated with vibrant colours and smooth songs(Himesh Reshamiya). The art work, cinematography and editing are flamboyant without flaunting the glamour quotient or giving away the film's illogical plot.

If this is meant to be a whodunit then the denouement comes as a big disappointment. But since the film showcases some truly eye-catching actors in ritzy wardrobe and sets that try to be upmarket and non-garish, you tend to forget how weakly the whodunit whimpers to a finish.

The characterizations are engaging in their slick swim in the shallow end. Paresh Rawail and Johnny Lever with their respective screen-wives Payal Rohatgi and Tenaaz Lal, know how to roll their eyes without losing their focus on the film's suspenseful ambitions.

But the dialogues are the pits. The joke about calling a lady a bomb that Upen Patel uses to flirt was used by Akshaye Khanna in Subhash Ghai's Shaadi Se Pehle. Aridity of ideas or just production control?

What really carries the script beyond its inherent wishy-washiness are the actors. Akshaye Khanna better here being serious after his over-the-top comedy in Shaadi Se Pehle last month, plays the investigative officer with arresting élan. Vivek Shouq as his assistant has been given some deft behind-the-scenes humour to make his character come alive.

Shahid and Kareena as the couple on the run share a warmth that somewhere transcends the plot. Kareena 's chiseled beauty pervades the film, superseding the bevy of feminine beauties(including Priyanka Chopra's endearing walk-on part) whereas Shahid's comic timing and energy are eminently endearing.

Upen Patel as the Casanova in the casino makes an unusual stylish debut. He dances with confidence and holds his own even among the accomplished ensemble of actors.

36 Chinatown courts frivolity without falling flat on its slick face. There's a certain momentum to the humour that doesn't get diluted by the depleted denouement.
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