By Movie Talkies, 16 January 2009
Director Nikhil Advani's latest offering Chandni Chowk To China comes with great expectations but fails to fulfill most of them. Post Ghajini, the audiences seem to be primed for some good masala fare, but Advani is unable to fulfill that expectation. The problems lie with a porous script and weak direction. There is no proper sense of direction in which the movie is heading. All the hits of last year have proved that a film works wonders with audiences if it has an interesting premise and a good script. In Advani's latest offering, he goes terribly wrong with the second and the film turns out to be quite bland and insipid, despite the presence of Akshay Kumar. On the face of it, the film has a lot of pluses besides Akshay and Deepika Padukone. The film has a lot of other big names associated with it. It has the backing of Warner Brothers and is probably one of the rare Hindi film which has been shot at the Great Wall of China. Advani makes ample use of the latter, with at least three sequences being shot there. But he is unable to utilize the presence of Akshay and exploit him as Vipul Shah and Anees Bazmi did in Singh Is Kinng. The latter film was not a great work of art but it succeeded at the box office, again due to Akshay, and the fact that it was entertaining. The music of Singh Is Kinng too was much more appealing than Advani's movie. One gets the feeling that Advani has made the mistake of taking his audiences for granted. Anyway to get back to the basic story of the movie Sidhu (Akshay) is a denizen of Chandni Chowk in Delhi and cuts vegetables at a roadside food stall in the area for a living. Like most ordinary people, he dreams big and wants to escape from his drudgery. He takes recourse to the usual fortune tellers and babas of dubious repute. His problem is that he has no belief in himself and his abilities. He has a godfather in Dada (Mithun Chakraborty), who keeps trying to make value his life and enhance his belief in himself, but to no avail. His life takes a real turn when two men from China accost him and tell him that he is the reincarnation of a Chinese war hero and take him to China. Little does he know that he is being taken to a Chinese village which is ruled by a ruthless smuggler called Hojo (Gordon Liu). This misunderstanding is deliberately caused by a wicked translator called Chopstick (Ranvir Shorey). Quite unaware of what lies in store of him, Sidhu feels that his kismet has opened up. His dreams of grandeur are further fuelled by Chopstick's lies. On the way, Sidhu meets up with Sakhi (Deepika), who is on her way to China, which is her birthplace. Her father and twin sister died there. But in China, he encounters Hojo, who kills Dada. Now Sidhu is out to avenge the death of his foster father. He realizes that he cannot take on Hojo on his own. Therefore he decides to arm himself with skills in KungFu. He finds a teacher who will equip him with those skills and help him take on the villain and decimate him. So yes, there is quite a bit of Kungfu as one would have expected, and lots of scope and potential for laughter. The comedy is not of the highest standard. There is lot of insipid comedy and the really funny scenes are too few and far in between. Considering that Akshay is a martial arts expert and such a lot has already been made of Deepika and the manner in which she has trained herself in the martial arts for the movie, it is hardly very thrilling. Also the loopholes in the script become quite glaring as the movie progresses. In a twist in the plot, Deepika's twin sister and father are alive and not dead. The sister is actually brought up by the villain himself. The first half of the movie details Akshay's journey from Chandni Chowk to China and how all his dreams come to nought. The second half of the movie deals with his coming of age, as he learns Kungfu and takes on the villain. It includes the mandatory rigorous training session that he undergoes. Both halves of the film definitely had more potential as rib ticklers than what Advani has managed with the available resources. The film's music does nothing to lift it. They are just about okay and, so is incidentally, the stunts and fights. It is not really breathtaking as one would have expected them to be. The cinematography by Himman Dhamija is just about adequate. The film's saving grace is Akshay but there is just that much that he can do. But he still manages to do enough. He plays the simpleton really well and manages the transformation very well too. He is well supported by Deepika Padukone and Gordon Liu. Ranvir Shorey, unfortunately, does not sparkle in this film, and neither does veteran Mithun Chakraborty. In all, the film is quite a disappointment. But there is so much hype attached to it, that it may just stay afloat longer than it deserves to.