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Akshay Kumar in a scene from Chandni Chowk To China.
Has Akshay lost it?
Okay, right at the outset let me confess I am an Akshay Kumar [Images] fan. I recall catching one of his early films on cable TV years ago, Mr Bond or some such obnoxious title, and being instantly struck by the hot-blooded hero. Who's this guy oozing raw machismo and is good-looking to boot, I wondered at that time. No one had heard of Akshay Kumar, but I told family and friends that he is a star in the making.
The reaction to my 'forecast', then and now, from friends was one of scepticism to my face, and I suspect worse behind my back. Through all this, Akshay Kumar himself didn't help his cause much, choosing some godawful films and a khiladi lifestyle.
But I always believed he made entertaining films. Through the worst turkeys, his enthusiasm for what he did best, fight well and romance a little, came through, and thus he survived, seeming to ever remain the best man, never the groom.
After all, there's only so much a Bollywood hero is expected to do, isn't it? If you are not good-looking you could even become the superstar, but Akshay was not so lucky here either. He was cursed with rugged looks. If you don't agree, tell me who was the last handsome Bollywood superstar.
So everything went against him ever making it to the top bracket, and Akshay himself seemed resigned to the fact that he will always be a B-grader.
Till, if you ask me, Priyadarshan [Images] came along with a helpline titled Hera Pheri and which involved a serious change in image. Alpha Male Akshay as comic hero? I was incredulous, but it worked and how! So much so that the actor seemed to have made that his speciality, judging by the slew of films he signed that tickled one's funny bone. Some good, some not so, and some so-so.
Through all this, through the Dhooms and Biffs and Bangs of Hrithik [Images] et al, I wondered if we will ever see Garam Dharam's true successor revert to type or if he will make comedy his full-time occupation. Oh, there were a couple of soft-focus romances thrown in between, like Namastey London [Images], where Akshay showed his tender side too, but nothing like bashing the villain's head in, if you ask me, for this Punjab da puttar.
But the decades proved him right. It was these ha-ha-hee-hee flicks that propelled him to the top, as the unsuspecting Khan triumvirate one fine day realised that they were no more alone at the top. A strange creature had joined them.
And this one was really strange. He was not an intellectual/thinker. He was macho, but didn't need to get into trouble with the law to prove it. He also had no big banner backing him. He was taller, lither, and better-looking too.
So there was grudging acceptance of the new superstar among them, and nowhere was this more evident than with the critics. Here was a bunch that had for years dissed this hero as a non-entity and non-actor, being finally forced by the power of the box-office to acknowledge him as not just a star but a superstar.
And when you realise that most critics go around with a script either in their head or locker, if not already on the floor, a script that needs a cast, producers and so on, the viciousness against Akshay Kumar's Chandni Chowk to China begins to make sense.
Frankly, is CC2C the worst film of the year, as one former actor whose sole claim to Bollywood fame seems to be a soft-porn film decades ago suggests? It is worst than Drona [Images] and Love Story 2050? Give me a break!
Trust me, it is not. I have seen absurd duds come out of Bollywood, including from its badshahs, absolute mind-shrinkers like Om Shanti Om [Images] and such that met with indulgent rap on the knuckles if at all while Akshay Kumar gets treated like he has committed treason.
CC2C to me is just another Bollywood entertainer -- mindless, crass and illogical. If you are the kind who seeks out Bollywood for a message, offer solution to present-day problems, or to make you ponder, you need to have your head examined. Or stop seeing/reviewing films.
Bollywood is not the place where you will find a Ray. Or a Guru Dutt. A few unusual multiplex movies do well, and we forget that Bollywood chiefly makes films like CC2C! Bollywood may have pretensions to greatness, but it's the potboilers that keep the industry going.
Anyway, dreading the critics' word I went in to see CC2C, with least expectations, and was pleasantly surprised by the caper. Since I seem to be only one around, people have been asking what I liked about CC2C, and here's my take:
Mithun Chakraborty. Mani Ratnam's Guru and CC2C make you realise how unfair Bollywood has been to a fine actor who had the rare honour of winning the national award in his very first film. I liked the bhai-bhai stuff between the two male leads.
Ranvir Shorey does a neat job as the Indian-Chinese friend responsible for Akshay Kumar's plight. In the climax fight, as Shorey starts chanting 'Liu Sheng' the locals drown him out with the correct 'Sidhu, Sidhu' cry -- neat, I thought.
And Deepika Padukone [Images]. Her first outing in OSO didn't touch me, but the third one certainly did. You know a Bollywood heroine isn't expected to do a Smita Patil, but within that framework this girl delivers a mean punch. And I mean it. After being bored by Priyanka's so-called action sequences in Don and Drona, Deepika's Meow wowed me with her fighting sequences. Yes, Akshay Kumar has serious challenge from her all right.
And the other Deepika was not too far behind -- she left me chuckling as the tele-marketing babe with a Made in China gizmo for every possibility.
To top it all, there was Akshay Kumar towering over everything. From going nuts with a 'Bappa' potato to being pissed upon and sobbing for divine intervention, he breaks every hero mould. And finally, when he joins the fight against the villain, you get a glimpse of the hero you've been longing to see.
It's a full-fledged formula film with a superstar thrown in as alchemist. And Akshay doesn't fail to impress, doing his comic and hero act with abandon, even sporting a good paunch while at it. My rating for the film? Two and a half stars, plus half for Akshay. 3 stars in all.
Since I came out smiling at the caper, as did the full house around me in a PVR cinema, I have been puzzled by the extent of vitriol against the film all over the media, something I have not encountered before for any other film. Is the whole negative campaign against the gate-crasher at the top being orchestrated? Cui Bono? Who benefits if Akshay falls off the pedestal? Just think.
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