Rarely do Bollywood movies live up to their hype. This one comes very close.
Amitabh Bachchan owns Spice6, the best Indian restaurant in London. To him, being a chef is more than a profession. It is an art, in fact, the greatest art of all. He personally ensures every dish that leaves his kitchen is up to his exacting standards. His employees respect him, but his angered outbursts send shivers down their spine. It is during one such outburst that he sees a dish, Hyderabadi Zafrani Pulao no less, returned by a customer (Tabu) because it’s too sweet (and hence the recommendation to reduce sugar or Cheeni Kum). Enraged, he walks up to the table, and challenges Tabu to make it any better. She leaves without uttering a word, but brings in some Hyderabadi Zafrani Pulao the next day that even Amitabh finds delicious. He now owes her an apology, thus setting into motion a series of events that lead to attraction between the two, and finally love.
Although the age gap between Amitabh and Tabu is there to see, it is totally downplayed and doesn’t even come into focus until later in the second half. Their exchanges are loaded with witty repartees and sarcastic remarks that leave the audience in splits. The tight script and screenplay make sure the movie progresses at a good pace although it was slow at times for my liking. I think the director fell for the Bollywood norm of making 2½ hour movies. Also, the movie loses its grip toward the end. The scenes are predictable and the melodrama avoidable. These are minor indiscretions of a first-time director, and in no way, reduce the overall appeal. If you ask me, it is certainly worth a second watch.
Amitabh is calm and composed. The role doesn’t challenge him much, but he plays it with conviction. Tabu is brilliant. The last time I saw her was in Fanaa, and firmly believed she’s insane. Not only did she pick the right movie here, she’s ensured her character isn’t sidelined. In fact, in several scenes, her character comes out on top of Amitabh’s, and is credible thanks to her acting abilities. Zohra Sehgal, as Amitabh’s mom, is on a roll. Swini Khara as Sexy, Amitabh’s 7-year old neighbor is cute, and gets to deliver a few punch lines too. Paresh Rawal as Tabu’s father is disappointing. His character is too clichéd and completely out of sync with the movie.
In sum, Cheeni Kum is no bitter pill. I rate it 4/5.