CHANDNI CHOWK TO CHINA. Director: Nikhil Advani. Players: Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Mithun Chakraborty, Ranvir Shorey, Chia Hui Liu, Roger Yuan. Music: Shankar Ehsaan Loy. (Warner, Rated PG-13). Theatrical Release.

The fact that Akshay Kumar movies command astronomical advances can be problematic. Originally scheduled for a Diwali 2008 release, Chandni Chowk to China was finally released on January 16 as the first installment of Advani’s three picture deal with Warner. It is likely the first Hindi language film to get an MPAA rating. Even though the plotline brings to mind the recent animated Hollywood hit Kung Fu Panda, CC2C does just fine as a stand-alone action-comedy.

Liu Sheung, an ancient Chinese war hero who single-handedly defended the Middle Kingdom from invading hordes of—well, just hordes—at the Great Wall, was prophesized to be reincarnated. Centuries later, an unlikely convergence of luck, plot expediency, and the recent India-China artistic détente result in Lieu Sheung making a comeback as Sidhu (Kumar), an under-achieving vegetable hawker from Delhi. Who says slapstick comedy has to rhyme? With tongue fully lodged in it’s heavily made-up cheeks, CC2C follows Sidhu’s misadventures as he goes and returns to China to meet his destiny and to face Hojo, a dastardly scoundrel who is terrorizing modern locals.

Akshay Kumar is to martial arts choreography what Hrithik Roshan is to dance choreography. Kumar’s formal martial arts training is clearly evident and isCC2C’s biggest draw. Supported by Chakraborty as Sidhu’s mentor in India, and Padukone playing long-lost twin sisters (aptly named Sakhi and Meow Meow), the script’s pan-Asian synergy is also boosted by Yuan as a former cop who reluctantly mentors Sidhu in China. Granted an extremely rare 18-day shoot on the Great Wall (Advani wrapped in 11 days), CC2C also benefits from brilliantly staged fight-sequences.

Given the magnificent alignment of three huge new Hindi releases (Ghajini, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, and CC2C), this holiday season emerged as a joy-ride for Hindi movie fans across the globe.

Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.

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