The other big streaming news this week comes from Hotstar (or Disney+Hotstar, as it’s known in India). The service revealed seven major releases that will skip theaters and debut directly on Hotstar in the coming months. In addition to the previously announced July 24 digital release of Sushant Singh Rajput’s Dil Bechara, the other titles include Akshay Kumar’s Laxmmi Bomb, Ajay Devgn’s Bhuj: The Pride of India, Abhishek Bachchan’s The Big Bull, Alia Bhatt’s Sadak 2, Vidyut Jammwal’s Khuda Haafiz, and Kunal Khemu’s Lootcase.
If you’re considering whether to shell out the cash to see No Problem, ask yourself if a movie whose resolution hinges upon a farting gorilla appeals to you. If so, then you may enjoy No Problem.
No Problem is the latest in a long line of schizophrenic Hindi slapstick comedies that wrongly assume that screaming and frantic action are hilarious. There is barely a narrative holding the story together between all of the running around. Rather, there are a number of loosely interconnected subplots driving the action, involving the following:
Yash (Sanjay Dutt) and Raj (Akshaye Khanna), two petty thieves trying to change their ways when they rob a small-town bank out of habit. They run from…
Zandulal (Paresh Rawal), the bank manager accused of colluding with Yash and Raj in the theft. He follows them to Durban, South Africa, looking for help from…
“Supercop” Arjun Singh (Anil Kapoor), who’s also after a gang of diamond thieves led by…
Marcos (Suniel Shetty), who’s fencing the diamonds through a government minister. Arjun can’t catch Marcos while he’s fending off attacks from his wife…
Kajal (Sushmita Sen), who has daily blackout episodes in which she tries to murder Arjun. Kajal’s sister…
Sanjana (Kangana Ranaut) has caught the eye of Raj, who proposes to her without realizing that her father is police commissioner.
There’s so much going on — and transitions between scenes and subplots are so clunky — that it’s impossible to give the characters adequate time to develop or endear themselves to the audience. I’m not even sure who the director expects us to sympathize with or relate to.
I love slapstick comedies. The goofy Tom Hanks movie The Money Pit is in my DVD player, and The Naked Gun remains one of my all-time favorite films. In fact, an early scene in which Arjun tries to arrest Marcos bears a suspicious resemblance to this scene from The Naked Gun:
But No Problem only goes for cheap laughs that rely on characters running in fast motion and illogically failing to recognize one another. If the dialog is funny in Hindi, the humor didn’t translate into English. The subtitled dialog is boring and excessive.
No Problem is the rare case of a movie that could’ve benefitted from more dance numbers to distract from the dull plot. Instead, the few dance numbers that exist are marred by a surfeit of distracting Anglo backup dancers, most of whom resembled chubby transvestites.
At its worst, No Problem crosses the boundaries of good taste. A male character in drag escapes the romantic advances of another man by declaring that he has AIDS. Given how the disease is ravaging sub-Saharan Africa, it is a tacky and thoughtless attempt at humor.
I enjoyed one of director Anees Bazmee’s previous films, the goofball comedy Welcome. That movie succeeded primarily because of its supporting characters, played by Nana Patekar and Anil Kapoor.
No Problem squanders its supporting cast. Suniel Shetty looks like he barely wants to be in the film. Sushmita Sen’s homicidal wife comes the closest to generating laughs, but even her character isn’t taken far enough.
The killer spouse subplot has a strange element to it. Arjun and Kajal have a young daughter whose role is to scream and cry while her mother tries to murder her father in front of her. What’s funny about watching a child suffer? The character isn’t essential to the plot (no, the clichéd instance when she floats away holding too many balloons doesn’t count), so there’s no reason for her to be in the movie.
It’s just another example of how No Problem misses the mark in an attempt to make a safe, unimaginative comedy.
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.
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.
When Rajiv (Akshay Kumar) meets Sanjana (Katrina Kaif), he thinks he’s found the girl of his dreams. Too bad her brothers are mobsters. Kumar is charming enough in Welcome, but Sanjana’s brothers, played by Nana Patekar and Anil Kapoor, steal the show as they try to curb their violent instincts to appease Rajiv’s family and see their sister married at last. The slapstick comedy moves along quickly, apart from a preposterous final action sequence that drags on a bit.
No Rating (violence, language); 160 minutes
This review originally appeared in The Naperville Sun on December 28, 2007