Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Chandni Chowk to China: Sticking to the formula
If you are looking for intellectual stimulation at the movies, watch Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling” or wait for “Slumdog Millionaire” — “Chandni Chowk to China” is definitely not what you are looking for.
It’s the first big release of the year, is produced by a big Hollywood studio looking to enter the Indian market and has one of India’s most bankable stars. But it also has a lot of Bollywood “formula”.
Now whether you like this film or not depends on whether you like the “formula”. Do you like the twins separating-at-birth-and-meeting-20-years-later formula? Or perhaps the I-will-avenge-my-father’s-death formula? Take your pick because “Chandni Chowk to China” has taken each and every cliché from Hindi cinema of the 70s and 80s and repackaged it.
Akshay Kumar plays Sidhu, a simpleton cook in Delhi’s famed Chandni Chowk, who fumbles his way through life and is waiting for the stroke of luck that will change his life. Through a chance encounter possible only in Hindi cinema, he meets two natives of China. They are convinced Sidhu is the reincarnation of the ancient warrior Liu Sheng, who will rescue them from the clutches of evil villain Hojo.
Somewhere along the way we also learn of Inspector Chang, whose family was separated because of Hojo. Chang’s twin daughters, Sakhi and Suzie (played by Deepika Padukone) are separated while he loses his memory.
To attempt to explain the story beyond this point is difficult, because the plot gets too convoluted and loses itself at many places. Except for the 20 minutes in the second half, where Chang is training Akshay in the art of kung fu, the rest of the movie is one chaotic scene.
But “Chandni Chowk to China” is unabashed about this chaos. It seems to be saying — this is how we like our movies and this is how we will make them. Who cares about a coherent plot line when you have Akshay Kumar performing stunts and singing mid-air with Deepika Padukone?
Like it or not, this is Bollywood formula at its best or worst, whichever way you look at it.