Posted at 1:45 PM on January 17, 2009
by Euan Kerr
"Chandni Chowk to China" is a comfortable film to watch, in part because it borrows so liberally from so many other films. Just off the top of my head there was "Goldfinger" "Mary Poppins," "The Last Emperor," "The Magnificent Seven," some "Kill Bill," maybe a little "Hero," and a bit of the Hope and Crosby road movies.
Of course this is a Bollywood movie, and so the emphasis is on the all important formula of romance, adventure and huge musical numbers. Add in that this is also apparently the first Bollywood Kung Fu film and you have a remarkable stew. But stews aren't for everyone
Akshay Kumar plays Sidhu, a slightly dopey Indian street cook. He complains that the only thing he has in life is bad luck, until one day he discovers a potato which he believes is marked by the elephant god Ganesh. For reasons which are never quite clear, Sidhu is then identified as the reincarnation of an ancient Chinese hero by a group of villagers who live in the shadow of the Great Wall of China. They are being terrorized by a gang led by the evil Hojo (Gordon Liu) who wields a killer bowler hat. (Oddjob anyone?) They travel to India to collect him, and after a mistranslated conversation leads him to believe there is no danger involved Sidhu sets off, potato in hand.
Life is immediately complicated when he encounters the beautiful Sakhi (Deepika Padukone) at the airport who has her own reasons to get to China, and uses Sidhu to get her a visa.
The rest of the film is a mishmash of mistaken identities, confused coincidences, some high flying kung fu sequesnces and a whole lot of musical numbers. The importance of family strength, moral integrity and a smatter in of religious ideals weave through the story too.
This is is the first Bollywood film released in the US by Warner Brothers.It make make a few new Bollywood fans. It's not a challenging film, but it's a pleasant enough way to shelter from the cold of a Minnesota winter.
Interestingly, Kumar who was once a chef himself before making a midlife switch to comedy films has said "Chandni Chowk to China" is partially autobiographical, which really makes your head spin.