Tag Archives: Chandni Chowk to China

Worst Bollywood Movies of 2009

There are a number of factors I considered when selecting candidates for Worst Bollywood Movie of 2009. Movies featuring racist jokes, such as Kambakkht Ishq and All the Best, obviously made the list. Incoherent plots brought Wanted and De Dana Dan to my attention, whereas Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna ignored traditional story structure and skipped the climax all together.

Ek — The Power of One deserves mention for its ridiculous title, which translates in English to “One — The Power of One”.

What’s Your Raashee? was easily the biggest disappointment of the year, coming from Ashutosh Gowariker, the filmmaker responsible for great flicks like Lagaan, Swades and Jodhaa Akbar.

2009 was a particularly bad year for Akshay Kumar. In addition to Kambakkht Ishq and De Dana Dan, he also starred in the bland supernatural thriller 8×10 Tasveer. His two other releases during the calendar year, Blue and Chandni Chowk to China, were fine but forgettable.

Because of their spectacular misunderstanding of human emotions and dubious moral messages, I thought about giving the award to either Kal Kissne Dekha or London Dreams. Kal Kissne Dekha suggested that one’s value is dependent upon one’s ability to save lives via superhuman powers, while London Dreams excused abhorrent behavior so long as it was committed in pursuit of a selfish goal.

But the ultimate winner had to be the most annoying, most cliché-riddled movie of the year, the worst of the worst. And the winner of Worst Bollywood Movie of 2009 is: Do Knot Disturb.

Do Knot Disturb, which deserves the honor based on its stupid title alone, contains all of the bad clichés that dominate Hindi comedies at the moment. The plot is based on a series of misunderstandings which could be clarified if the characters actually had conversations with one another. The jokes are written based on volume instead of quality, under the mistaken belief that what was funny the first time is even funnier the sixth, seventh and eighth time.

Case in point, the high-pitched screaming match between characters played by Govinda and Ritesh Deshmukh. The characters get spooked by something and start shrieking in girlish voices. The gag isn’t original, but it’s not inherently annoying. But in Do Knot Disturb, the characters scream dialogue at each other in those high-pitched voices for the next ten minutes of the movie.

After one minute, the gag had already stopped being funny. After ten minutes, it was unbearable. I actually walked out of the theater and only convinced myself to return out of a sense of journalistic duty. By virtue of having watched all but one minute of the movie, I can say that Do Knot Disturb is the worst Hindi film of 2009.

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Movie Review: Kambakkht Ishq (2009)

kambakktishq1 Star (out of 4)

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By this point, if you’ve seen one Akshay Kumar slapstick comedy, such as Chandni Chowk to China, Singh is Kinng, or Welcome, you’ve seen them all. Kambakkht Ishq is no different, except that producer Sajid Nadiadwala cast three American movie stars, in the hopes of making this film a crossover hit. But the publicity-stunt casting can’t save this cliched comedy.

Kumar stars as Viraj, a Hollywood stuntman who thinks women are only good for one thing. Kareena Kapoor plays Simrita, a supermodel-surgeon (seriously) who thinks men are dogs. While trying to convince their families and friends that romance is for suckers, they inadvertently fall in love with each other. It’s a plot that’s as old as the hills, and this movie does nothing to freshen it up.

There are a number of reasons why Kambakkht Ishq won’t appeal to American audiences the way Nadiadwala hoped, beyond the predictable problem of Hindi wordplay jokes that aren’t funny when translated into in English.

First, the casting of American actors didn’t work. It was cool to see Sylvester Stallone in a Bollywood movie, but Denise Richards and Brandon Routh barely qualify as “stars” in the U.S. I’m guessing Denise Richards is referred to only by her full (and real) name throughout the movie so that Indian moviegoers can look her up on IMDb after getting home from the theater.

More confusing is the inclusion of a bunch of Australian actors in the movie, even though it’s set in Hollywood. Aussie singer Holly Valance makes a cameo appearance, despite having little name recognition in the U.S., apart from a few small parts on some canceled TV shows. And nothing snaps you out of movie faster than an L.A. thug who sounds like Crocodile Dundee.

Along those lines, the dialogue in the movie is lame, and having American actors deliver awkward lines in English just emphasizes the poor quality of the writing.

Also problematic for American audiences is a scene in where Simrita watches Viraj film stunts for a movie. The set Viraj is working on is clearly that of the Waterworld stunt show at Universal Studios Hollywood theme park. There are even empty bleachers in the background of one of the shots!

Yet the biggest reason American movie fans won’t like Kambakkht Ishq is its style of comedy. Most egregiously, some of the jokes are racist, such as when Viraj dons an afro wig and blackface makeup to trick his sister-in-law.

The rest of the slapstick-style comedy is old-fashioned by American standards, and not well executed. There are pratfalls and pies in the face, all done with over-the-top, silent-movie-style acting.

There’s also a bit with a doctor who’s lost his hearing aid that inspires predictable jokes like this:

Viraj: “I need you to check!”
Doctor: “You want to have sex?”

All of the jokes in Kambakkht Ishq have been done before, and they’ve all been done better. Given the dismal reviews American critics gave to Chandni Chowk to China, which was distributed by Warner Bros., it’s time for Indian producers to rethink pinning their hopes of achieving crossover success in the U.S. on Akshay Kumar, at least until he starts making more sophisticated comedies.

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Movie Review: Chandni Chowk to China (2009)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Akshay Kumar has found his niche: playing bumbling guys who fall in love with pretty girls while outsmarting villains. He’s played that type of character recently in Welcome, Tashan and Singh Is Kinng, and he does so again in Chandni Chowk to China. Kumar’s good in that kind of role, but I’m ready to see him branch out.

CC2C stars Kumar as unlucky vegetable cutter Sidhu, who gets tricked into leaving the Indian town of Chandni Chowk in order to save some Chinese villagers from a tyrant named Hojo (Gordon Liu). The story is predictable — Sidhu eventually figures out that he’s been duped but takes on the villagers’ problem as his own — but it’s told well.

For the most part, the film is successful. The story is accessible, the fight choreography is well-executed, and the Chinese actors in CC2C are better than non-Indian actors in Bollywood films typically are. Even the movie’s corny running gag (Sidhu’s convinced that the god Ganesh has taken corporeal form as a potato) is surprisingly funny.

But CC2C falls short in a number of ways. Deepika Padukone is underutilized, even though she plays two roles. Worse, every time she appears on screen as the thief Meow Meow, her arrival is marked by an annoying “meow” sound effect.

The sound mixing is the film’s biggest problem. There’s a lot of noise, with sounds of a yelling crowd layered on top of high-pitched music. In a theater, that kind of cacophony renders some of the dialogue unintelligible and is, at times, even painful to listen to. (The theater where I attended the movie usually has pretty good sound, so I suspect the fault lies with the movie’s creators.)

Chandni Chowk to China isn’t great, though it is amusing and certainly better than 2007 Bollywood-Hollywood collaboration Saawariya. But its uneven production and cookie-cutter story will probably keep it from becoming a mainstream hit in America, which is surely what distributor Warner Bros. was hoping for.

Chandni Chowk Photo

Opening January 16: Chandni Chowk to China

Chandni Chowk to China opens in theaters on Friday, January 16. It’s almost certain to be a blockbuster (by Bollywood standards), since it stars the unstoppable Akshay Kumar and the gorgeous Deepika Padukone, who gets to kick some butt in the film.

The movie is an amazing international venture; it’s the first Hindi film to be shot in China, and it’s being distributed in the United States by mega-studio Warner Bros. Pictures. The film earned a PG-13 rating from the MPAA.

In the Chicago area, Chandni Chowk to China will be showing at:

Marcus Addison Cinemas in Addison
Century Stratford Square
in Bloomingdale
AMC Loews Pipers Alley 4 in Chicago
Kerasotes Showplace 12 in Niles
AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington
AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville
Cinemark Seven Bridges in Woodridge

The South Barrington 30 is also carrying over Ghajini, which should be avoided at all costs.