Title: Cheeni Kum
Cast: Tabu, Zohra Sehgal, Amitabh Bachchan, Swini Khera, Paresh Rawal
O my God O my God
I stand corrected.
Amitabh Bachchan can actually act! And he actually made a movie that is chock full of my favorite actors: Zohra, Paresh and Tabu- hooray!
I think I stopped liking Mr. Bachchan's acting since the movies he made in the 80s. Not even after his so-called comeback in the 2000s could I bring myself to get over my dislike. And then he does this.
Buddhadev (Amitabh) plays the chef/owner of "Spice 6," supposedly the best Indian restaurant in London. He is a eccentric bachelor, living with his mom (the always amazing Zohra) and occupied in his work. His next door neighbor Sexy (Sweeni), a little girl dying of cancer, is his one friend and confidant.One fine day, in walks Neena (Tabu), a tourist from India, and piques Buddhadev with her criticism of the Hyderabadi Zafrani Pulao of the restaurant. Of course they become friends soon after, followed with mutual attraction and a tentative courtship.
The evening they announce their relationship to Buddhadev's mom, Sexy relapses and is accompanied by Buddha to the hospital. The next day, Neena too has to go back to India- her father (Paresh) is sick.
Buddha follows Neena to Delhi to talk to her father about their marriage. Her father is Gandhian, a cricket-lover and chicken-lover, and appears to be eager to view Buddha as a friend rather than as a prospective son-law. When Buddha does muster the courage to bring forth his suit, the conflict in the movie surfaces: the father cannot imagine his 32 year old daughter getting married to Buddha's 64 years, and even attempts a hunger strike to prevent it.
With the united efforts of Neena and Buddha (following the advice of Sexy and Buddha's mom), Paresh finally comes around. And accompanying that, on the other side of the world, is Sexy's demise. Despite that pang, all's well that ends well- the movie sweetly closes with the now married Buddha and Neena, Buddha's mom and Neena's dad in Spice 6, sharing a meal and planning to go see a cricket match.
What I liked:
1- The movie has many scenes which are basically simple conversations, executed so well that they pique your interest, not bore you to tears. Conversations between Tabu and Bachchan, Zohra and Bachchan, Sweeni and Bacchan: all are brilliant and engaging, yet simple. I was reminded of the comparatively insipid conversations between Preity and Abhishek in "Jhoom Barabar Jhoom."
2- Tabu is a marvel- to my eyes, she is a actor right up there with Smita Patil and Shabana. As much as I have gushed over her in "The Namesake" in these pages, I am eager to gush again. She easily assumes the character of Neena and brings an effervescence delightful to behold.
3- Sweeni is a remarkable actor as well, as is Zohra. I honestly wish Zohra many long and happy years of life, so that we may continue to enjoy her efforts. Amitabh was amazing- for once subtle yet emphatic.
4- It is always a pleasure to see Delhi in movies- I am transported back to my days there. The climatic shots at the Qutub reminded me of photo shoots I did there- I wonder what happened to the pix- I shall do more this time I go back.
Note: Another similarity between "Cheeni.." and "Jhoom..."- both have the title song being repeated throughout the movie- but in "Cheeni..," unlike the other movie, one doesn't sicken of it!
All in all, it's fabulous- if you have been like me and not seen it till now, then do so asap!