Friday, October 19, 2007

A Spoonful of Sugar


While it is quite common to hear people argue that Mr. Amitabh Bachchan is now overexposing himself by appearing in one too many films, one cannot help but deny that there is still an element that draws you into watching him on-screen. Indeed, he will always be one of the finer Indian actors, and that is precisely why it is hard to resist a film that pairs him with one of the country's finest actresses, Tabu.

Touted as "A Sugar Free Romance", Cheeni Kum is precisely that. A film that, without the conventional hero/heroine, college campus setting and barrage of background dancers, tells the simple tale of how two individuals share a couple of chance meetings and proceed to fall in love. Only there is no real declaration of their love - no shouting from rooftops or pouring buckets of tears while mouthing the standard 'Main tumse pyaar karti hoon' shannanigans - but a simple mutual admiration that develops over time.

The catch is that these protagonists share an 30-year age gap (Bachchan is said to be 64 and Tabu, 34). Bachchan works as a scrooge-like head chef at "Spice 6", the top Indian restaurant in London, while Tabu frequents his joint and teaches him a thing or two about real zafrani pulao. All the while, they are surrounded by a wise-beyond-her-years cancer-striken child (Swini Khera), a bumbling kitchen staff, Bachchan's Sex and the City-obsessed mother (Zohra Sehgal) and Tabu's drama queen of a father (Paresh Rawal).

What works for the film is the fact that each individual enacts his or her role with utmost ease. Yes, we could have gone a lifetime without having to witness Bachchan shop around a drug store for contraceptives, but the truth is that he is good in any role he takes on. This is also an uncharacteristically understated performance from the senior, complete without the echoing baritone voice and piercing looks we are so used to.

Tabu interprets her role with the perfect element of sarcasm and wit. It's a shame we don't see more of her, and it really is a loss to the industry that they do not give her the credit she deserves. After The Namesake, she continues to show why she is one of the best in the business.

Fans of Paresh Rawal who enjoy him at his over-the-top, Hera Pheri best will be disappointed that this is not such a role. He does have moments of humor, but his purpose is more to provide conflict in the otherwise casual love story.

Newcomer Swini Khera is very impressive as the smart-talking child. It's nice to see Indian filmmakers finding less annoying children of late (other welcome additions include Ali Haji from Fanaa/Ta Ra Rum Pum/Partner and Angelina Idnani, also from Ta Ra Rum Pum). Zohra Sehgal is just right for her role.

The music dominates the background and is not really something you pay much notice to, even if it does sound reasonably ear-pleasing.

Of course, there is a downside. At times the film fails to hold your interest. You find yourself flipping through a magazine or getting up to grab something from the kitchen - in other words, it's no film that you feel the need to give your 100% attention to.

Also, there is an overall feeling that something is missing from the film. It's one of those ventures where you don't really feel like you're watching a film. It's almost like watching an hour of Eastenders ...

Nonetheless, it's something different - not at all to be compared with Nishabd, another recent film that paired him with a significantly-younger actress, as the two films are poles apart in terms of theme and content.

Verdict? What harm can a little sugar do?

1 comment:

Prachi said...

Yeah it wasn't bad...it did lose me at times...but the acting was good...amitabh and tabu had decent chemistry...surprisingly though i agree...i never wanted to see amitabh bachchan going to buy condoms lol! the end was kinda too much drama for me but overall not bad at all