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BIG B TRIUMPHS WITH SUGAR-LESS COMEDY
BIG B TRIUMPHS WITH SUGAR-LESS COMEDY

By Satyajit

Critic's I-view

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First, there is a good news in as much as 'Cheeni Kum' is not an improvised or rehashed version of Ramu's infamous 'Nishabd', but an experimental attempt of delivering uncharacteristic subject on Indian screen. If Ramu chose dramatic moves to persuade audiences in 'Nishabd', then debutante director R Balki has preferred "comical" treatment to justify the unusual theme in his film. 'Cheeni Kum' is a contemporary multiplex entertainer where Amitabh Bachchan succeeds in justifying a non-happening "filmi" character with full credibility and thus silence his detractors through a commendable performance. The film may not be as hilarious or comical as 'Bheja Fry' or 'Pyar Ke Side Effects', but does deliver the needful in a two and half hour package. The film has towering and reliable acting talents who make this an entertaining show.

Above all, the surprise element proves to be child artiste baby Swini Khara, who steals the show with her chirpy one-liners besides indifferent theme and story. It brings back Tabu into commercial mainstream after her splendid performance in 'The Namesake' along with the comical genius of Paresh Rawal. 'Cheeni Kum' talks about the pros and cons of relationship between an elder man and a younger woman. The theme may sound ostracized or detested in Indian sensibilities but the storywriter has given it an emotional touch. The film talks and later stresses on the "age no bar" factor in a congenial relationship and still later tries to strike a balance between the two major relationships

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'Cheeni Kum' is a sweet and innocent relationship of an elderly man (Amitabh Bachchan) with his ailing six year old girl neighbor "Sexy" (Baby Swini Khara). It's an unusual but heartbreaking relationship where Amitabh spends quality time with the ailing girl. This sweet girl responds spontaneously to his generosity as she proves to be a worthy "counselor" for him in the beginning as well as in the climax. It forms the strong linkage between the unpredicted love relationships that finally face the seniors' resentment. R Balki tries to infuse hilarious elements in making this track compatible with the theme of the film. Later, the film transcends into sweet and sour relationship between this elderly man with a thirty plus young woman (Tabu). This atypical relationship builds in unwanted situation when the self-esteem of renowned restaurateur (Amitabh Bachchan) is hurt by her customer (Tabu). The restaurateur feels apologetic for his subordinate's blunder and finally this panicky emotion is transformed into an impulsive affection. It thus builds "Cheeni Kum" (sugar-less) chemistry between them and this unpredicted relationship leads to undesired confronting conversations.

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'Cheeni Kum' works as a cerebral comedy as both discuss the pros and cons of happy marriage. Both these relationships are built on basic human nature and are dignified as the "epitome" of eternal love. It proves all its detractors wrong as the lead protagonist (Amitabh Bachchan) is emotionally bounded with his real love (Tabu) rather than on her physical personality. In the climax, Tabu reiterates the morality and preaching of Sexy (ailing girl) to Amitabh in her own version. It shows the sensibilities of a good storyteller that relationships are not bounded on physical relationship or lust. The film tries to ridicule the sensuality in a pious and affable relationship through its hilarious narration when Tabu challenges Amitabh's masculinity in a playground. Unlike 'Nishabd', Big B gets energized and vociferous in the climax in justifying his relationship with Tabu, though Paresh Rawal's "satyagraha" sounds artificial and unwanted.

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'Cheeni Kum' tries to magnify the practicality of an unusual theme through its wise gestures but still it falters at many places. Now, comes the bad news; the film tries to rejuvenate an unpopular theme (old man and young woman) that has faced resentment and hostility of masses for many decades. Yash Chopra did try it in 'Lamhe' but failed miserably and decades later Ramu's experimentation faced an outright opposition from masses, media and critics. Director R Balki walks on a tight rope in his first endeavor as he tries to tread on this infamous path. Despite a crispy and witty screenplay, the film has some loose ends. The film drags in the first half and there are some repeated instances and scenes which decimate the pace of the film. Sexy's (ailing girl) asking for "Adults" DVD's may sound amusing but it has failed to strike any authenticity with the scripting. Tabu's serving as an advisor to her friend's boyfriend has not met with enough justification in the film. Her friend's (Kanwal Toor) role in the film is unexplainable as she vanishes from the scene in the climax. Paresh Rawal's (Tabu's father) character could have been meatier and crisper to draw more humor. His actions of "satyagraha" and Gandhian theme mismatch with the situation of the film. R Balki would have opted for a better climax than showing Paresh Rawal's fasting unto death. Even Zohra Saigal's (Amitabh's mother) passion for wrestling and exercising fails to draw major humor or relevance in the film. Due to its uncharacteristic theme, 'Cheeni Kum' will be drawing elite audiences and its acceptance will be restricted to multiplexes. Illaiyaraja's music is melodious to core and works positively in the narration.

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The film drags in the first half and there are some repeated instances and scenes which decimate the pace of the film. Sexy's (ailing girl) asking for "Adults" DVD's may sound amusing but it has failed to strike any authenticity with the scripting. Tabu's serving as an advisor to her friend's boyfriend has not met with enough justification in the film. Her friend's (Kanwal Toor) role in the film is unexplainable as she vanishes from the scene in the climax. Paresh Rawal's (Tabu's father) character could have been meatier and crisper to draw more humor. His actions of "satyagraha" and Gandhian theme mismatch with the situation of the film. R Balki would have opted for a better climax than showing Paresh Rawal's fasting unto death. Even Zohra Saigal's (Amitabh's mother) passion for wrestling and exercising fails to draw major humor or relevance in the film. Due to its uncharacteristic theme, 'Cheeni Kum' will be drawing elite audiences and its acceptance will be restricted to multiplexes. Illaiyaraja's music is melodious to core and works positively in the narration.

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The soundtracks "Baatein Hawa", "Sooni Sooni" and "Cheeni Kum" work appreciably as the effective background score. These musical presentations are far away from routine chorographical work and thus will be centered on elite viewers. P.C Sreeram's cinematography is visually delightful as it captivates the alluring charm of urban London . P C Sreeram, a favorite with Mani Ratnam, shows the finest aspect of his skill by giving aerial shots (song - "Baatein Hawa"), high angle shots (showing Amitabh's restaurant "Spice 6") and effective close ups (Amitabh's breaking loose after Sexy's death). Chandan Arora's editing needs to be slightly dicer as the film should have trimmed by 10-15 minutes in its duration. 'Cheeni Kum' completely belongs to Amitabh Bachchan in terms of his screen presence, performance and vigor that reciprocate substantially with his indifferent character. His immaculate comical timing proves to be the worthiest aspect that makes this a hilarious entertainer.

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The scene where he shares his pains and blissful relationship with "Sexy" shows his immaculate growth and strength as an actor. Later his compatibility and on-screen chemistry with Tabu shows his versatile genius. Tabu's aging looks may be a disappointing factor but her acting skills supersede it. She may not be as impressive as Amitabh but she fits well into her caricature. It was delightful to watch her in a commercial mainstream cinema after a hiatus of three years and probably the audiences will appreciate her performance. Paresh Rawal's comical genius hasn't been fully utilized as the actor's comical flair could have been a big asset to the film's success. His name on the credits will draw major crowds but his fans will be disappointed to see him in a sedate role. His character of a disciplinarian father may not be his finest performance but he deserves all accolades for being theatrically profound in his performance. Zohra Saigal shows her versatility and agility as a competent performer and it shows in her brilliant performance. The veteran actress has been a big asset for the film in all aspects and the film belongs to her adaptability as a trustworthy actor despite her old age. Baby Swini Khara proves to a big revelation and can be crowned as "Best Child Artiste" of the year for her finely crafted author backed role. It shows the genius of director R Balki in drawing quality work from this talented child artiste.

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Finally, debutante director R Balki, graduates appreciably from advertisement world to filmmaking through this light hearted comedy. The filmmaker should be complemented for crafty promos that worked aggressively in generating a promising opening for the film. He has succeeded both as a storyteller and as a technician in narrating an indifferent story. 'Cheeni Kum' should not be misconstrued as slapstick entertainer but should be acknowledged as indifferent dramatic effort by a new filmmaker. It will draw major applause and crowd from multiplexes and will work positively for director R Balki and superstar Amitabh Bachchan in best possible ways. Its collections will be maximum in multiplexes and overseas while it can face an uphill task at single screen theatres. The film is expected to have a good opening at all major places and should prove to be the first major hit for Big B this year.

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