Starring Mithin Chakraborty, Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Ranvir Shorey
Directed by Nikhil Advani
Rating : * ½
This is a film about maar-saala arts, not to be confused with martial arts which Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan practice with such splendid and subtle skills on screen.
Akshay Kumar cannot be accused of the sins of subtlety. Not at all. He goes from a sweaty cook in Chandni Chowk to a cheesy fighter in China with hammers tongs and indecipherable tongues.
What lies between the extremities represented by the two Oriental cultures has to be seen to be believed....or, not seen to be not borne. But then we in country love to torture ourselves. And most of us do exactly what we are told not to.
So go for this one. And find out why 'Bollywood' (that horribly inappropriate wannabe term used to describe Hindi mainstream cinema) cannot compete with its technically savvy upcountry cousins from the West, or even China and Hong Kong.
When Jackie Chan kicks ass, man... he really kicks! No two ways about it. Akshay Kumar divides his time between being an action hero and a comic virtuoso, tripping over the line that divides the two genres with little or no scope to contain the fall as the screenplay plunges lower and lower into the depths of inanity.
Writer Sridhar Raghavan, known for his smart slick cerebral takes on formulistic conventions spins a web of incidents chronicling the journey of Sidhu the protagonist from a cook in Chandni Chowk to the satirical samurai in Shanghai is littered with laughable incidents and episodes that appear more to be part of a clumsy sitcom lampooning the Chinese than purported large-screen spectacle bringing China to Bollywood.
Director Nikhil Advani (who displayed pockets of sensitivity in his innovative but over-long Salaam-e-Ishq two years ago) takes the hero into what looks like a carryover of the Chambal ravines in China.
Honestly, if this film had been shot anywhere in the world it would've been just as bland and fatuous. What compounds the woefully inadequate narration is the abject lack of connectivity between the protagonist and the audience.
Not even for a second do we feel a rush of empathetic adrenaline for the culturally-displaced Sidhu who encounters all kinds of emaciated goons, terrorized by a suited, booted and largely-uprooted villain named Hojo (Gordon Lieu) who is no Gabbar Singh or Mogambo.
Just an aging goon in a black suit who doesn't know it's bad manners to pee in public, specially in the hero's face.
Brutality when done with grace can be extremely arresting. We saw that recently in Ghajini. Chandni Chowk To China does the cause of cinematic violence a great deal of disservice.
The internationally-renowned action directors who pool in their might seem unsure of where to position the action. Perched on the Great Wall Of China, Akshay Kumar and his fellow fighters (and that includes the desi Lucy Lieu Deepika Padukone) slug it out like drunken revelers on a rowdy spree.
Elegance is in short supply in the film, except when Deepika playing twin sisters (told apart mainly by their hair, one of them perpetually forgets to braid it properly) waltzes in with a light step and twinkling eye. She seems to have fun. We don't. And that's mainly because the scriptwriter forgot to include the audience in his circle of entertainment.
Large chunks of this 'Adventures Of Sidhu in blunderland' saga leave us cold and unresponsive. And when the final climactic fight between the hero and the villain occurs, Akshay Kumar decides to turn it into a comic romp in the middle of the climac. We are more dazed than dazzled by the baffling mood swings in the plot.
Yes, there are moments that hold your attention. Sidhu's martial arts training with twin Deepika Padukone's Chinese dad (who looks like he could do with a wash) are superbly orchestrated.
That touch of unstrained comicality in stressful times that the narration apparently strives to achive, eludes the film by a wide margin. Most of the time you are looking at a film that does appalling things to Indo-Chinese relations. Not to mention our traditional perception of mainstream masala-maar ke entertainment.
Martial arts are turned into maar-saala arts. And you leave the film wondering what it was meant to be. A bird, a plane or just a pathetic parody of Jackie Chan's comic vendetta sagas.
Chandni Chowk To China isn't just no-brainer. Its lobotomized laughter can make you wish for anesthesia. At least you'd know where the numbness is coming from.