The trailers for Cheeni Kum, I decided to have some faith (albeit little) in R Balki’s newest venture. Of course, about 120 minutes later I was cursing my decision and I felt like I played an April Fools’ prank on my own brain.
The film, which stars Kareena Kapoor and Arjun Kapoor in titular roles, revolves around a couple who have reversed gender roles. Kabeer is a house husband while Kia aims to climb the corporate ladder. For India, where the unemployed are looked down upon, the premise could have been hard-hitting. But when you have an actor like Arjun who has only one expression — puppy dog face — taking the film seriously becomes an arduous task. One can see Kareena trying to take command, much like her character Kia, and steer the film on the right track, but in vain.
Shoddy acting aside, even the execution of the film is cringeworthy. It’s patchy in most places and much like several other “social message” films, it upholds the very stereotype it wants to break. The film’s pace is erratic, to say the least. I wondered if the projectionist was a sadist as the film felt sped up and slowed down in many places. In the end, I realised it was the film all along.
I think the funniest part is how Bollywood executes courtship. In reality, men (and in many cases, women) do everything in their power to impress their lady/man love. But in Bollywood, no matter how you look or whether you have the personality like a wall’s, if you’re the lead actor, the actress will fall for you after three or, at most, four scenes. This film is no different. After having fallen for each other, the couple, armed with the speed of the bullet train that India aspires to build one day, tie the knot.
As with every single film that has the lead actors get married in the first half, everything is rosy in the beginning. Then, the demon called ego comes into play and everything falls apart. Sounds familiar? Well, that’s because this premise has been used and exploited umpteen times. Whether be it Aandhi. Suddenly, you have Kia feeling “conscious” about her husband’s unemployment and Kabeer, well he’s just standing there making a puppy face.
The humour of the film doesn’t come from the intended sources. It comes from scenes such as when a visibly unfit Arjun helps fat “aunties” lose weight. A piece of advice to the film maker: if you want to show the actor moping around, please don’t have him hopped on a segway waltzing around the mosque at Purana Qila. All it does is, bring to mind the equally horrible film, Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
Scenes such as Kabeer wanting to be like his mother and wear a mangalsutra around his wrist don’t make me go all gooey-eyed, instead make me wish I had a wall in front of my seat so that I could kill whatever grey matter the movie had spared.
The film’s soundtrack is another gem. Since rehashing old songs has become a trend, this film contains one of Honey Singh’s previous works (badly remixed by the Meet Brothers). Apart from Ji Huzoori, I wouldn’t inflict the aural torture upon my worst enemy.
No matter how bad the film, sometimes the chemistry between the lead pair is often a facesaver. Sadly, that’s not the case with this film. Arjun and Kareena’s chemistry is so cold that if one didn’t know their characters are married, one would think they’re distant cousins just goofing around.
As the film finally came to an end, what escaped my lips was the same as the last words of Kurtz, the character in Heart of Darkness: “The horror! The horror!”