OLD IS COLD
Same shtick, different setting – isn’t it time Akshay Kumar moved on to something else?
JUL 5, 2009 – HOW WOULD YOU KNOW IF YOU’RE among the card-carrying legions of Akshay Kumar fans who transformed the actor from action hero to comedy superstar? (He returns to his roots in this comedy by playing an action hero: a stuntman.) I suppose the indication would come early on in Sabbir Khan’s Kambakkht Ishq (reworked from the okayish Tamil comedy Pammal K Sambandham, with Kamal Hassan), if you find you can survive the wedding of Lucky (Aftab Shivdasani) and Kamini (Amrita Arora), a cuddly-wuddly ceremony accompanied by exchanges of “my wabbit” and “my tweety.” For you, then, is this movie made. As for me, I experienced what I usually do in an Akshay Kumar laughathon: there’s always a of law of inverse proportionality at work, which dictates that the more the public adores it, the more I have to resist the impulse to find a quiet corner and blow my brains out.
Tashan and Chandni Chowk to China were hardly successful films – not (entirely) artistically, and certainly not commercially – but they were at least borne along by minor-league ambition, even if that goal was to simply execute jazzy riffs on once-upon-a-time movies. At their core, there was something beyond just scene after trying scene attempting to up the noise quotient under the guise of humour. But after those flops, Akshay is back to upping the noise quotient. If size matters in the case of Kambakkht Ishq, it isn’t bigger that’s better but louder – not only is every actor instructed to perform as if on stage and playing to an exclusive audience of the hearing-impaired, it’s also the sheer volume of the slapstick, which at times assumes the shape of a bludgeon. Towering over you like a giant bully, the film practically dares the unimpressed not to laugh.
The tragedy of this comedy is that it could have delivered genuine laughs had it merely followed up on its battle-of-the-sexes premise. Viraj (Akshay Kumar) loves women but hates commitment. Simrita (Kareena Kapoor, in her unbearably supercilious “Poo” mode) hates men and, subsequently, hates commitment. There is, therefore, the mild anticipation of the inevitably old-fashioned trajectory of Viraj and Simrita moving from hate to love. They meet, for the first time, at the aforementioned wedding, where he is aghast that Lucky has gotten hitched, and she expresses similar sentiments about Kamini. It’s only a while before they begin sniping at each other. “Dog,” she hisses at him. “Bitch,” he barks back. “Ah, true love,” we sigh, and settle down for this apparently mismatched couple to realise that they are, in reality, perfectly matched.
But instead of sexy banter and witty comebacks, we’re treated to farce – which isn’t such a bad idea, except that the unendurably broad gags are of the type where an overweight black woman squats on Viraj and subjects him to a rectal probe. (She suspects he’s carrying drugs.) Then suddenly, the film veers into drama – which, again, isn’t such a bad idea, because badly done drama is infinitely preferable to badly done comedy. For the most part, though, Kambakkht Ishq can’t seem to make up its mind whether it wants to settle into a farce or a rom-com, with mellow passages underlining the melting of hearts. Sylvester Stallone, Brandon Routh and Denise Richards put in guest appearances as movie-folk – they are surprisingly relevant to the story, set in Hollywood – but once again, all the heavy lifting is left to Akshay Kumar. As I said, if you’re a fan…
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