Movie Review: 36 Chinatown ...

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By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service

Film: "36 Chinatown"; Starring Akshaye Khanna, Kareena Kapoor,

Shahid Kapoor, Johnny Lever, Tenaaz Lal, Paresh Rawal, Payal Rohatgi

and Upen Patel; Directed by Abbas-Mustan; Rating: **

From master-thriller makers comes this brisk and bouncy rib-tickler

that purports to be a comic whodunit. Admittedly, some portions of the

narrative keep you smiling and some make you bite your nail in

suspense.

This is pleasurable silliness masquerading as a whodunit. To that

extent it works, though you never know why the film had to have the

title that it has when in fact Chinatown plays no part in it. Sure,

paper dragons float by in the climatic song and we see some mongoloid

faces in the chorus line. But er...is that all it takes to create

Chinatown?

Maybe Abbas-Mustan wanted the film to be more stylish than the other

films. The ambience is saturated with vibrant colours and smooth songs

(Himesh Reshammiya). The artwork, cinematography and editing are

flamboyant without flaunting the glamour quotient or giving away the

film's illogical plot.

If this is meant to be a whodunit then the denouement comes as a big

disappointment. But since the film showcases some truly eye-catching

actors in ritzy clothes and sets that try to be upmarket and

non-garish, you tend to forget how weakly the whodunit whimpers to a

finish.

Paresh Rawal and Johnny Lever with their respective screen-wives

Payal Rohatgi and Tenaaz Lal know how to roll their eyes without losing

their focus on the film's suspenseful ambitions.

But the dialogues are the pits. The joke about calling a lady a bomb

that Upen Patel uses to flirt was used by Akshaye Khanna in Subhash

Ghai's "Shaadi Se Pehle". Aridity of ideas or just production

control?

What really carries the script beyond its inherent wishy-washiness

are the actors. Akshaye Khanna, better here being serious after his

over-the-top comedy in "Shaadi Se Pehle" last month, plays the

investigative officer with arresting élan.

Vivek Shouq as his assistant has been given some deft

behind-the-scenes humour to make his character come alive.

Shahid and Kareena as the couple on the run share a warmth that

somewhere transcends the plot. Kareena's chiselled beauty pervades the

film, superseding the bevy of feminine beauties, including Priyanka

Chopra's endearing walk-on part, whereas Shahid's comic timing and

energy are eminently endearing.

Upen as the Casanova in the casino makes an unusual stylish debut.

He dances with confidence and holds his own even among the accomplished

ensemble of actors.

"36 Chinatown" courts frivolity without falling flat on its face.

There's a certain momentum to the humour that doesn't get diluted by

the depleted denouement.

Bollywood.com Rating: 2