Title: Chori Chori – 2003
Director: Milan Luthria
Starring: Ajay Devgan and (wait for iiiiiiiiiit) Rani Mukerji
First, the highly truncated, Cammy-fied summary of this film:
Rani Mukerji is surprisingly funny acting opposite stuffed monkeys.
That oughta get your attention. Truly, this film is loosely based on the American movie Housesitter with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn. Orphan Khushi (Mukerji) is a happy-go-lucky nut of a gal, living on her own in Delhi and fibbing her way out of work whenever possible. Ranbir (Devgan) is an architect who was building a dream home in the mountains for his love, Pooja….who refuses him and his house saying that he’s too much of a dreamer and not serious/financially responsible enough. A depressed Ranbir is doodling the unfinished dream home on a party napkin on the one night when Khushi apparently decides to show up and do her job at the hotel hosting the event. Good thing for her, too, because the next day her boss decides that her efforts at the party weren’t enough to make up for all the other days she’d made excuses not to work. He not only fires her, but evicts her from the one room flat where she lives with her roommate and constant companion, stuffed monkey, Jonathan (no, not making that last part up.). With the napkin sketch in hand, she sets off and takes up housekeeping in the half-finished dream home in the mountains (and if you’re thinking some of those mountains look like Switzerland, you’re right…Bollywood is obsessed with shooting stuff in the Alps, just roll with this), faking to Ranbir’s family that she’s his fiance. He shows up, and plays along, hoping to make Pooja jealous enough to return to him.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, it’s Bollywood romance, so you kinda know how this one ends.
So you know the plot isn’t complex. It is, in fact, cheeZe with a Z, much like other B-wood movies I’ve reviewed. But what about the acting?
Remember when I said that Mukerji is acting opposite stuffed monkeys? Plural? One of them clearly, is Jonathan, the literal stuffed monkey she totes around the entire movie. The other is Devgan. Totally sorry to his fans, but while the man is decent enough to look at, and seems to be good for the quiet, brooding type…he just isn’t dialed in for most of this movie. It might be the script and an attempt to show a contrast between Ranbir and Khushi, but I’m not sure that’s all of it. I–no lie–actually recall more scenes with Khushie interacting with Jonathan than with Ranbir. I’ve seen way worse couplings, but this pairing is not going to have the chemistry of a Shah Rukh Khan-Kajol or Rani Mukerji-Saif Ali Khan flick.
Mukerji, on the other hand, brings it pretty well. I mean, she manages to make me adore scenes where she’s conversing with a stuffed animal enough that I went out and bought the DVD and I’ve watched the damn thing 5 times. Khushie as a character has the potential to be so saccharine and unreal that she’s detestable (I was actually very afraid of this when I read the summary of the film), but somehow, at least for me, Mukerji manages to make the character nutty and endearing and does what I find to be a great job with her first comedic role. Her performance makes the movie (well, her’s and Jonathan’s. Actually, I’m giving most of the credit to Jonathan because while she’s funny enough, the fact that she’s talking to a stuffed monkey is what makes hilarious).
The film has some other problems, but I found out after watching that the producer died in the middle of the film and the final release was delayed over a year. I can only imagine how much didn’t get done that could have been better without issues. Smoother scene transitions, a little more build up on the romance, clarity on some of the shots (some seem fuzzy).
While not a Bollywood classic, or anything deeply meaningful, it’s a fun, easy-to-watch film. I find it a good one for a Sunday afternoon, or as background noise while puttering around in the evening. It’s also a really nice gateway drug to Bollycrack for westerners who may not be ready for anything too over-the-top. At 2 hours, it’s shorter than some of the other introductory Bollywood options available, and with a simple story and lots of humor
So, to sum it up in Kristy style:
Things I liked:
-Jonathan, the stuffed monkey
-Khushie’s lonely-but-upbeat Dilwali
-Khushie’s conned meal
-Mukerji proves hands down that she’s good for more than weepy drama
-Did I mention Jonathan, the stuffed monkey?
Things I didn’t like:
-Some of the subtitles in a few places just didn’t make sense!
-Lack of build up of the romance
-Romantic lead participates less than Jonathan
-Poor scene transitions/seemingly missing background info
All told, I’ll give it 3 and a quarter jars of peanut butter.