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Subhash K Jha speaks on Cheeni Kum

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By: Subhash K. Jha, IndiaFM
Monday, May 28, 2007
The incandescent Tabu makes her 'bitter'-half in this sweet-and-slender confection, run across the London fields... "Just to see if you've the energy to do anything after we get married," she tells him her tongue firmly in cheek.

Check this out.

Cheeni Kum is probably the sauciest, sassiest, slickest, smoothest and most scrumptious romantic comedy you'll see in the Hindi language in a long time.
She's in London for a holiday. He is a cantankerous sarcastic chef who can't take a snub even when it's served up on a platter.
Menu rab da vaasta!

Lolita, go eat your art out. Cheeni Kum makes you forget there's a difference of 30 years between the girl and, ahem ahem, the boy. That's the magic of pure acting. The magic of two of the finest actors at work as they create an ebullient alchemy.

On the menu in this mellow ode to love's luminous largesse are an 85 -year old mom (Zohra Sehgal) living life king-sized, a 7-year old terminally-ill girl (Swini Khara, the most prized discovery of the year) who watches claims the chef as her very intimate friend and watches all the adult DVDs he gets her, since she won't get a chance to do so later. Then there's heroine's Gandhian father who can't stop reminding his damaad-to-be of his autumnal age. And last but certainly not the least in this feisty feast, there's the churlish chef's kitchen staff comprising some of the most sparkling cameo-actors you've seen.

Unarguably one of the finest directorial talents in this millennium, Balki just sweeps that age thing under the carpet. Yes, the dialogues make pointed barbed references to what it's like for two such generation-challenged people to come together and laugh at each other's foibles.

It's hard to decide in which capacity Balki scores higher marks, as director or dialogue writer. Caustic and crisp, mordant and modern, pithy and passionate, the words weave a minty magic across this intelligent yet spontaneous comedy of romantic errors.

Shakespeare meets Gulzar in this evocative and funny love story. The flavour of the exchanges between the wry surly chef in London and the serene Indian girl from Delhi who makes the cardinal mistake of criticizing the arrogant chef's Hyderabadi biryani, is so distinctly pungent and peppery you wonder which came first in the writer-director's range of vision: the mix-matched couple or the words that they exchange to bring each other closer to that feeling which we sometimes call love, sometimes don't even recognize it for what it is.

Just like the dishes from the kitchen of the Indian restaurant where some of the satire unfurls, the brilliant banter between Bachchan and Tabu is light on top, cooked just right and served at ummmmmmmmmm temperature.

In the first -half cinematographer P.C Sreeram captures an unexplored side of London. As the relationship between the couple grows, you sense undercurrents of feisty defiant and mischievous feelings trickling out of the verbal banter that you until now thought existed only in the range of the unspoken.


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