Reviewed by: David Criswell, Ph.D.
REINCARNATION—Does the Bible allow for this possibility? Answer
POVERTY—What does the Bible say about the poor? Answer
Astrology—What’s wrong with it? Answer
What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer
|Featuring:||Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Mithun Chakraborty, Ranvir Shorey, Gordon Liu, Roger Yuan, Lau Yuk-Ting, Jun Li, Chang En Lu, Conan Stevens, Kevin Wu|
“Kal Ho Naa Ho,” “Salaam-E-Ishq”
|Producer:||R.S. Entertainment, Orion Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Nikhil Advani, Roopa De Choudhury, Kulthep Narula, Ravi Sarin, Ramesh Sippy, Rohan Sippy, Mukesh Talreja, Sally Yeh|
|Distributor:||Warner Bros. Pictures|
“This Diwali, two great civilizations… will wish they had never met!”
“Chandni Chowk to China” is a first in many ways. It is the first Bollywood (Indian) movie to be distributed by Warner Brothers; it is the first Bollywood film made in China; and it is “the first ever Bollywood Kungfu comedy,” says its producer. It is also something most have not seen before, but is that good or bad? Early reviews from India are mixed. Most either love it or hate it. This reviewer leaned more towards love.
Now, I am not a fan of Kung Fu films, but I am a fan of Bollywood. For those not familiar with Bollywood, you can expect lots of song and dance, and lots of over the top humor and campy drama. The drama is played over the top with dramatic music to emphasize every piece of dialogue, but always with tongue in cheek. At times, Akshay Kumar makes Jim Carrey look like a Shakespearean actor by comparison. This is particularly true in the film’s first 15 or 20 minutes. The slapstick humor was so strong, that even the Marx Brothers would blush. Nevertheless, the film settled down to be only moderately absurd, and I mean that in a good way.
The plot involves a crime Lord whose reign over a village in China is so severe that they seek out the “reincarnation” of a long dead warrior. Unfortunately, the journey leads them to a stupid, bumbling cook on the famous Chandni Chowk street in India. Convincing him to seek his destiny in China, Sidhu (Akshay Kumar) arrives where he meets twin sisters separated from childhood. The one (Deepika Padukone) is good, the other works for the evil mastermind Hojo (Gordon Liu). Here enters the Bollywood drama wherein the family eventually seeks to reunite. Sidhu, having been initially humiliated, learns to become a Kung Fu master and defeat Hojo (don’t worry, I am not giving away any spoilers—if you didn’t know that already, you just don’t watch movies).
“Chandni Chowk to China” pays homage to everything from Jackie Chan to James Bond to “Kung Fu Panda.” There is a man who throws his bowler hat to kill people (like Oddjob in “Goldfinger”), there is poison lipstick, bulletproof umbrellas, people walking on air (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), a touch of “Kung Fu Hustle,” and, of course, Jackie Chan.
Like most Bollywood films, there is no sex (though a few scenes of seductive dress and suggestive dialogue), no nudity, and no language. There is, however, an ample supply of violence. In the film’s opening scenes a sword is plunged through a man, and we see the bloody sword sticking out his chest. There are several scenes where a hat is thrown, as in James Bond’s “Goldfinger,” slicing a man’s head, with blood shown on his neck. Some rather graphic scenes of men’s arms and legs being broken, and many Kung Fu scenes of violence and mayhem. The film received a PG-13 rating, and it is deserving because of the violence, but, in most other respects, it is a perfectly clean movie, and even the violence is compared to Kung Fu films (though still inappropriate for young children).
Another issue parents may need to discuss is the spiritual ingredients. The movie is Indian, and, therefore, it is natural that reincarnation and idolatry are seen in the film. Parents may want to explain the differences in eastern religious concepts and Christian ones. In the Bible “it is said that it is appointed for man to die once, and then comes judgment,” whereas the film presents the idea that man is reborn in many lives, over time. Still, the campy nature of the film is such that Sidhu sees the god Ganesh in a potato (doubtless homage to some of the weird religious relics being sold on Ebay), and he carries the potato around with him through the whole movie, often speaking and praying to it. The greater issue is that which is taken seriously and which far too many Christians succumb to: namely, “God helps those who help themselves.” This is the theme of the film, oft repeated. This is also the only verse in the Bible which people cannot find in the Bible, because it is not in the Bible. It is a product of the “me generation” which denies that “each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2). Selfishness has become a virtue to some it seems, and we should remind out children that pride is a sin, but I digress.
“Chandni Chowk to China” has a large release for an Indian film. It is opening in over 130 theaters in the US and Canada. That means that, if you live in the big city, you can probably expect to find it playing somewhere. If not, you can stick it in your Netflix queue. If you want to see the film and don’t mind captions, you can either check your local listings or go to the official Web site which lists the cities and theaters where it is playing (http://www.cc2c-thefilm.com/international/).
Overall, “Chandni Chowk to China” is a fun, over-the-top action/comedy/musical from Bollywood India. Its star Akshay Kumar has quickly risen from supporting actor to a mega star who is likely to eclipse Shah Ruhk Khan as the big male lead in Bollywood. It is no coincidence that his rise has coincided with his taking comedic roles. Chandni is not for those who want a serious action film or a dramatic romance. It for those who want to spend two and a half hours laughing, grinning, or sometimes even shaking their head. Be warned, “Chandni Chowk to China” is not for everyone, but for those who do like over-the-top action/comedy/musicals, this is a winner.
I have heard that there are different versions of “Chandni Chowk to China” available. The release in India is longer than that in America, although it is possible America has different cuts. I have not been able to confirm all the differences, but since the DVD version is usually unedited, I feel it is necessary to warn viewers that I have confirmed at least one scene which is completely unsuitable for Christian families. In that scene the villain urinates upon our hero. It was apparently cut from the American release (possibly to avoid an R rating) but it may have actually been included in some theaters. Please be sure to review the DVD content before allowing younger children to see this, as there is apparently a longer version in circulation which is not suitable for young children at all.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: Minor
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.