Qalandar’s Thoughts on Chandni Chowk to China

Sorry guys, no full-fledged review. I was going to dedicate my review to Gabber, but after watching it a the New York premiere earlier this evening, I decided I liked Gabber too much to do so.

For months, I’d been saying on NG that the one thing that worried me about Chandni Chowk to China’s box-office prospects was that in recent years, the audience hadn’t taken well to zany, spoofish humor, as demonstrated by the fates of Tashan, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, and Jaaneman. But I wasn’t unduly worried about the quality of the film (after all, I’d quite liked each of the three films mentioned above).

Well folks, I was right on one count and wrong on the other. Having watched the film, I remain unsure about its box office prospects (I hope the film does well, but I can’t say I expect it to do so). But I was wrong in expecting to enjoy this film. Dead wrong.

Chandni Chowk to China is, not to put too delicate a point to it, pretty darn bad. In the first instance, it is unsure about what kind of film it wants to be; unlike a Jaaneman which started out spoofy and ended up sober, or an Om Shanti Om or Tashan which also devoted their second halves to getting serious, Chandni Chowk preserves a schizophrenic identity throughout. It cannot be dismissed as a spoof, as it takes its masala roots and moments (right from amnesia to bichday huay bachchay to backstabbing mentors) quite seriously — and yet just about each and every one of these
moments is rudely interrupted by a farcical moment, a manufactured attempt to evoke laughs, that quite simply spoils the mood. The film never recovers from this, because these two personalities are never integrated into a seamless whole, and the masala moments — the one thing this film had going for them — that seem poised to move the audience come crashing back to earth.

Now for the good stuff: it was great to see Akshay do some real action towards the very end of the film, albeit this was all too brief and juxtaposed with shots of the villain metamorphosing into an aaloo (you can’t make this up), and there were some evocative shots of the Delhi streets (even if these were sets, they were good ones) throughout the film. Akshay also had some good comedy moments, and the audience really seemed into it early on in the film. Sadly, this is another one of the film’s strengths that it fritters away (the scene of Akki trying to close the luggage compartment in the airplane to China is hilarious). Deepika Padukone was at her leggy loveliest, and the action sequence introducing the “Chinese” Deepika was superb. And I really liked the grand, zany, picturization of the title song. And I laughed out loud at the crazy touch of a Chinese man who’s lost his memory, his daughters Deepika, and only speaks Hindi :-). Other than that there wasn’t much — even the much vaunted on-location shooting in China was limited to shots of, on, and around the Great Wall 95% of the time.

PS– Goodfella saw it with me too. Neither one of us, nor a third person who had accompanied us, was impressed (the third friend walked out 15-20 minutes before the film was done)

Oh, and being a premiere, I got to see Akshay and Deepika in person.

All in all, I am VERY disappointed. Score one for Nikhil Advani’s ponderousness over Rohan Sippy’s Taxi No. 9211 and Bluffmaster! touch…

137 Comments

  1. satyam
    satyam
    January 9, 2009 at 3:09 PM

    No that film is titled ‘Beimaan’! LOL!

    Dus Numbri has ‘yeh duniya ek numbri..’

  2. Aditya
    Aditya
    January 9, 2009 at 3:33 PM

    aw maaaan!! i desperately wanted this film this film to be good. i called a few months back that this film will either work like a charm(if it remained tongue-in-cheek throughout) or be a total disaster(if it takes itself too seriously). i guess its the latter. bummer!:(

    side note: clint eastwood simply ROCKS!. “gran torino” is way better than i thought!. one of the best films of the year.

  3. Aditya
    Aditya
    January 9, 2009 at 3:35 PM

    i meant to say “i called it a few months back”…..

  4. Shahid
    Shahid
    January 9, 2009 at 4:44 PM

    Thanks for your thoughts yaar. I didn’t have any specific expectations for this film… The promos left me cold (I know, I must be one of the few!). The flaw you mention of emotion being spoiled by mis-timed humour sounds like the work of a C-grade director. To me, this sounds like a very serious flaw and renders a film unwatchable.

    Boo hoo to people dissing Singh Is King on here. It’s a guilty pleasure film that I love to bits. Altogether now: “All my ladies going crazyyy, with rhythm of the music spinning, it’s heating up the niiight.” Woohoo!

  5. satyam
    satyam
    January 9, 2009 at 10:06 PM

    Shahid: Singh is Kinng is actually comparatively restrained. It’s almost a bit flat at points. It certainly doesn’t over the top for the most part the way Akshay’s other comedies are. For this reason I possibly prefer to most of his other films.

  6. satyam
    satyam
    January 9, 2009 at 10:06 PM

    Shahid: Singh is Kinng is actually comparatively restrained. It’s almost a bit flat at points. It certainly doesn’t go over the top for the most part the way Akshay’s other comedies are. For this reason I possibly prefer to most of his other films.

  7. utkal
    utkal
    January 9, 2009 at 10:09 PM

    aarakayne, I agree with Satyam, Daud was flat and boring. As against Kshanam which was exciting and entertaining. Daud shares the same lack of respect vfor the audience with movies lke JBJ and tashan, and is actually worse that these two. I mean what were songs like O Bhawnre pictured totally unimaginatively, with Urmila’s derriere, doing ina film that is supposed to be smart? The gags were mecahnical predictable abd singualarly unfunny. This was RGV at his uninspired worst, maybe a good competition would be Shiva, the 2nd avatar. Rangeela and Shiva 1 offer the sharp contrast as to how these films can be done right.

  8. Aarohi
    Aarohi
    January 9, 2009 at 10:24 PM

    Daud was Kshana Kashanam redux in some ways. Didn’t work nearly as well as the latter. But was enjoyable in parts.

  9. Shahid
    Shahid
    January 10, 2009 at 3:21 AM

    Satyam: Glad you agree… Yes, there are some flat moments especially with the whole poverty angle. But I love some bits like Akshay chasing the chicken in the beginning, his comic timing in the Bhootni song and the wonderful sight gag with Sonu Sood in the wheelchair. Definitely prefer it to Welcome or Bhagam Bhag.

  10. satyam
    satyam
    January 10, 2009 at 9:11 AM

    yes agreed Qalandar.. the last half hour of Welcome was great fun..

    The thing with SIK is that I think it could have actually trended much better than it did if it had been more over the top!

  11. uluv33
    uluv33
    January 11, 2009 at 12:45 PM

    A Roundeye Kick to Haters! Haiiii-ya! CC2C is sheer Bollywood resurgence!

    Got a chance to watch it at the snazzy New York Premiere on 42nd street, which had Akshay, Deepika and Nikhil Advani in attendance. Seemed like the mother of all premieres, as it seems to be well in advance of the movie’s release next week. Advani must be really confident of his product – and rightfully so.

    The film was hardcore comedic desi masala with a side of lo mein. Akshay Kumar is now a genre of his own – especially his brand of humor which appeals from front-benchers to the elitists.

    Technically, this has got to be one of the more superior projects to emerge out of Bollywood. The martial arts sequences, the eye-caressing shots of the Great Wall (did you know this is the first flick ever to be shot there? EVER!? DAym!).

    Don’t expect a brilliant storyline or a gripping plot. CC2C is like how Austin Powers would do Enter the Dragon. Sheer madness and insanity. Comic-bookish – so please leave that condescending and sarcy brain of yours at home, which always goes to watch a Bollywood movie to mock it afterwards for “weak storyline”, “sequences were difficult to believe”. Arrey? Its a fantasy movie about a cook from Chandni Chowk who gets sucked into being the reincarnation of a Chinese Warrior, and eventually saves a village. Do you know anyone who can say, “Hey, that happened to my brother-in-law, last week!”. I mean, please. Just goin for the laughs, enjoy the over-the-top-ness, savor the superior production quality that Bollywood lovers will soon get used to, as more corporate houses like Warner Bros emerge on the desi scene.

    Hardcore recommendation! Watch CC2C. It rocks! Haiiiiii-ya!

  12. ILG
    ILG
    January 11, 2009 at 1:31 PM

    Unfortunately, Q, you didnt receive the instructions to leave your condescending and sarcy brain home before hand!

  13. Gabber
    Gabber
    January 12, 2009 at 2:00 AM

    welcome uluv33.

    Thanks for your review of the movie of the year – CCTC!

    Q, I also hope that you saw a different film….maybe billoo barber :)

  14. RAJ
    RAJ
    January 12, 2009 at 2:29 AM

    Satyam,

    “””When a star does one film at a time it becomes critical. Unless of course you’re Aamir and then even that one film never fails!”””

    Which other star having one film a year have failed ????

  15. sv
    sv
    January 12, 2009 at 4:58 AM

    uluv33,good to see an Akshay Kumar fan here.

  16. satyam
    satyam
    January 12, 2009 at 6:12 AM

    Raj: No current star that I’m aware of has Aamir’s record where at that low volume and that kind of genre mix everything works. You can do OSO once a year and have a sure shot success. It’s not quite the same thing with a TZP! Of course even when Aamir increases his volume everything still works (Lagaan and DCH, RDB and Fanaa) and it’s still a mix of genres.

    I think I’ve made this point clear many times. That the ‘once a year’ policy is justified only when you’re seen to be shifting the ‘debate’ if you will. Coming back after one year and doing RNBDJ doesn’t quite cut it. Because absence signifies (Hollywood or otherwise) a degree of ‘care’ that the actor puts in in terms of choosing a project. So both TZP and Ghajini can be easily justified for all the reasons we’ve discussed many times before. If absence doesn’t signify prestige and careful selection then it becomes only about the box office. The subliminal message with an aging star also is that the one superhit a year is great but the star clearly doesn’t want to ‘risk’ more exposure than this.

    Even a younger star is not entirely clear of this danger. So JA is perfectly defensible, Kites isn’t. With that gap.

    Any advantage that Aamir gains by having one release a year is balanced out by the risky genres he gets involved with. On the other hand when you do formula films (whatever your strength genres might be) then you actually convert even the absence into a strength. So people want a Yashraj love story in any case but being away for a while means they want it even more! Despite this RNBDJ did not get off to a rocket start on day 1. The publicity argument is lame. The ads were all over TV every single day. As if people needed to be persuaded anyway to watch SRK and Yashraj!

    But the competition also comes in here. Why is is that Akshay can do multiple formula films a year but not SRK? Why is it that Abhishek has a Mehra/Rathnam double and no one else does? It can be argued very plausibly that only Aamir could have such a combo if he so desired. Even he couldn’t come up with a more prestigious deal!

    It is impossible to argue that stars other than Aamir or Abhishek are actually not interested in a Hirani, a Mehra, a Rathnam or what have you. The obvious conclusion is that either the star isn’t getting these offers or doesn’t have the nerve to take real risks.

    Now we’ve heard the old spiel before where mysteriously certain stars keep rejecting every good project in town. With SRK the drama is that he coincidentally has fights with every prestigious maker and refuses to work with them! All a little silly if you ask me. Hard to believe who could buy this kind of story!

    But there is nonetheless another kind of truth to this structure. SRK for example at his age wants blockbusters once a year. He doesn’t feel he can get the same result if he does a risky film and rightly so. Given that he’s predicated his career for so long on being big or even the ‘biggest’ he can’t compromise his box office in any way. Because remember Aamir doesn’t just do a Hirani but often does films with less than established setups (DCH, TZP, Lagaan). SRK is not willing to do this. Which leaves the other option of established prestige names coming to him. This doesn’t happen either. At least not often.

    Which brings me to yet another point. Will Smith might be the biggest Hollywood star of the moment but Fincher is not about to cast him in a Benjamin Button anytime soon! For the prestige subject just being the biggest box office star might not be enough. Guess which ‘Italian’ Scorsese was casting? Not Stallone! It’s not just about acting prestige. There’s a certain box office logic to this as well. Actually Stallone couldn’t have delivered more even in box office terms in Scorsese’s films. Because authentic subjects depend on the actor appearing authentic as well. Again an old example of mine. Name me the ‘top’ star who does more in a different film than Abhishek does in Guru (in box office terms). There is none. And this isn’t the most ‘commercial’ film around by a long stretch and depends even more on the central protagonist than most other different films in the same period. No frills here. Except for the publicity of the lead performance. Or let’s turn it around. What star considered Abhishek’s equal or lesser than him grosses as much in a ‘different’ project?

    All of this has to be understood. If this were not the case many directors would be idiots for not just taking the top 3 stars at the box office at any given time! This is where all the debates about star rankings also miss the point. yes, in an absolute sense Stallone and Schwarzenegger were bigger than De Niro. But in a system that values prestige this fact is not the only one that matters. India is also now becoming a Hollywood kind of system which is why one sees even stars with proven box office ability venturing in other directions. Why did Hrithik need to do a JA after Krrish/D2? He could do a couple of these movies every year and become absolutely the top box office star? Would Akshay do only comedies if he could get ‘better’ films and find them viable? Of course not. The same held for Stallone as well!

    This holds especially for stars who have proven box office ability or a fanbase and who walk away from it. Aamir’s is again the best example. But also take Abhishek. Had a great ’05. Walked away from it. To this day no BnB like followup, no Dus like followup. SR as a sequel came three years after the first one (however it worked there was quite a gap; it couldn’t have been his only show!), even BM which helped him greatly in urban centers does not have a followup. Finally there’s a Dostana three years later and even this cannot be universal because of the gay theme! And what about Guru? Why not another film or two, even inferior ones, that exploit the overman thing? It’s easier than ever in this multiplex age to prosper from formula. But these are the only two stars who have demonstrably walked away from obvious advantages. It takes time and discipline. Aamir went through the 90s (though he was always one of the top stars) before he got to his current triumphs (he had hits then also of course but it was a different environment).

    All of this is connected to your point. You have to look at contexts. No one thinks that SRK doing a RNBDJ once a year and Aamir doing a Ghajini is the same thing. And I’m not even getting to TZP or what have you. Even with ‘prestige’ certain projects are safer than others. Would you bet on Hrithik/Ash in a Bhansali or Abhi/Ash in Rathnam? In pure box office terms? Aamir has never even gone for this kind of ‘obvious’ choice, or not often. The same holds for Abhishek.

    There’s also another parallel. When Aamir got commercial flops (Mela) or even earlier after QSQT he abandoned those paradigms. He didn’t try to do better versions in the same genres. Abhishek also does this. Aamir also learnt that being ‘different’ had its limits. Abhishek has been learning that as well. He still seems to have enough volume but Aamir at that age wouldn’t have disagreed with doing Mehra, Rathnam, Johar, RGV, Rohan Sippy, Balki or what have you!

    So it’s all about contexts, the narrative a star has or the narrative he ‘controls’.

  17. satyam
    satyam
    January 12, 2009 at 6:21 AM

    I find it fascinating that Abhishek is obviously his father’s heir. But his career choices ironically enough are not that of a guy who would like to be a megastar but much more an Aamir’s! Or that of his father’s in the 70s though Bachchan of course was unique and could combine the Mukerjees of the world with the Desais and get great success each way. That model is just a unique. Since Bachchan Aamir has been most influential in my view (and will be recognized more as such with time) in terms of altering the basic terms of the debate in Bollywood. The star who follows him most is Abhishek! So Aamir’s project while totally successful at this point still does not have an obvious ‘heir’ other than Abhishek. The latter’s success, depending on how much he gets over time, is also Aamir’s success! This in addition to the ‘Bachchan signature’ extension. Both Bollywood pathways converge here. How much he can do with these remains to be seen. But SRK even though culturally significant in so many ways, moreso than Aamir in fact for many segments, was nonetheless not able to bring about that structural difference. So we see SRK now getting as close to masala as possible with OSO, trying to go small town and authentic (even if the result is anything but the latter) in RNBDJ. So on and so forth! Sure, SRK did Mansoor Khan and Rathnam in the 90s but that didn’t change anything for him or anyone else. Aamir’s path did. The other thing here is of course Bachchan who pretty much made ‘age’ a non-issue for a viable star. No one could replicate him but when a man even in his 60s seems so relevant the guys in their early 40s have a better shot at things!

  18. satyam
    satyam
    January 12, 2009 at 6:23 AM

    By the way even Abhishek’s boldness does not match Aamir’s. Because Abhishek makes these choices in an industry where ‘prestige’ means a great deal. When Aamir tried these things in the 90s it was a very different ballgame.

  19. satyam
    satyam
    January 12, 2009 at 6:28 AM

    Do I give Aamir too much credit? No! I am fairly confident that a certain immersion in Bollywood history will reveal the fairly unique nature of Aamir’s achievement in this decade. There isn’t another such model where a star literally ‘invents’ the idea of prestige. There were always prestigious names and big stars did such films as a matter of course. But this was different from the ‘idea’ of prestige. Aamir’s model is quite singular and he could keep doing this for years. Age will obviously be less of an issue for him in his 50s than it is today for stars, let alone ‘yesterday’. Assuming there isn’t great physical deterioration. Always a danger for any star. Again Bachchan’s unique. Physically remarkable at every stage of his career!

  20. satyam
    satyam
    January 12, 2009 at 6:28 AM

    Raj: Moral of the story? Never ask me a question! LOL! Unless you don’t mind reading volumes!

  21. Gabber
    Gabber
    January 12, 2009 at 6:48 AM

    ‘I find it fascinating that Abhishek is obviously his father’s heir. ‘

    :D

    Satyam, members will come and go but your fascination will remain the same. I will prefer Abhishek to make his own mark. I do not think he can become the real heir of Amitabh. Even Amitabh would have struggled to repeat his success.

  22. Tango
    Tango
    January 12, 2009 at 8:25 AM

    The true inheritor of Bachchan legacy is daughter Shweta. Her talk show were live proof of it. But it was her choice to settle for a family life rather that being in the limelight. I respect that.

    Abhishek has taken more after Jaya ji than Big B, it is quite obvious.

  23. Tango
    Tango
    January 12, 2009 at 8:27 AM

    **was**

  24. Tango
    Tango
    January 12, 2009 at 8:28 AM

    Gabber kya scene hai? Lets exachange notes after watching CCTC :-)

    I hope its thumping action.

  25. satyam
    satyam
    January 12, 2009 at 9:23 AM

    Gabber: I would like to think I am not dense enough to suggest Abhishek is his father’s heir in terms of replicating his father’s ‘event’. I think I have made myself very clear on both scores.

  26. satyam
    satyam
    January 12, 2009 at 9:46 AM

    Tango: It was worthwhile writing that long comment to get the Shweta response once again from you! Anti-Abhishek folks thy name is anxiety!

  27. Tango
    Tango
    January 12, 2009 at 8:24 PM

    Anxiety after a sureshot Dostana getting to where it did :razz:

    and :lol:

  28. Gabber
    Gabber
    January 12, 2009 at 9:17 PM

    ‘Gabber kya scene hai? Lets exchange notes after watching CCTC ‘

    Sure will do.

  29. Tango
    Tango
    January 12, 2009 at 9:22 PM

    Yeah i had aread that in your review Q and in that case they will be misinformimg the audience.

  30. Tango
    Tango
    January 12, 2009 at 9:23 PM

    Yes Gabber we will.

    I’m set for first day 6-9, unless the maligned fog re-appears!

  31. ideaunique
    ideaunique
    January 12, 2009 at 9:41 PM

    Satyam, any idea how the stalwarts like Kamal Hasan, Dilip Kumar, BIG B……have reacted to GHAJINI (if they have seen it…)?

  32. akshay shah
    akshay shah
    January 13, 2009 at 2:02 AM

    Yeh kya ho gaya Q bhai? Wow..surprised at the review, nonetheless thanks for posting bro….still looking fwd to this a lot!

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