By Subhash K. Jha
Film: “Kung Fu Yoga”; Director: Stanley Tong; Cast: Jackie Chan, Sonu Sood, Disha Patani, Amyra Dastur;
The worst crime you can accuse a Jackie Chan film of is silliness. “Kung Fu Yoga” is supremely silly. But like Jackie’s films in the past, it is a whole lot of fun if you are in the mood for some goofy antics.
The film’s utterly implausible plot opens with a great big “Baahubali” styled battle between Chinese and Indian forces. I suggest you hold your horses… err… elephants, because the preamble is most decidedly not the best of beginnings for an adventure saga that veers from the violently unbelievable to the intensely funny, sometime achieving the extremities in the same sequence.
But that’s Jackie Chan for you. The merger of mirth and mayhem in his personality is achieved with so little stress and so much exuberance that it takes very little for us to believe this super-entertainer is still enjoying himself, dishing out the dolled-up drollery with the devilishly disarming joy of self-discovery.
For the record, Jackie Chan is, don’t laugh, an archeologist this time. Not that it matters what he plays. No matter what his vocation, the mission is to set the world right, break bones and bridge fences. This time, he is surrounded by a bevy of nubile Chinese and Indian beauties who have nothing better to do than to giggle and wriggle and sometimes throw in a few punches.
The punches and the punchlines belong to Mr. Chan who still speaks a queerly exotic English. Many of his dialogues with his Chinese co-stars are meant to be in their native language. Strangely, instead of subtitling, the Chinese lines are dubbed into English, so that the humour of linguistic misapprehension is completely lost in translation.
At one point, Disha Patani (playing an Indian princess with little to do except look pretty) says, “I didn’t understand what you said” to two characters who are meant to be talking in Chinese but are actually heard by us in English.
Never mind. This is mindless entertainment at its brainless best, topped up by a kind of foamy salute to Indo-Chinese kinship that would at best, be as serviceable as a picnic up the Himalaya where revellers from both the countries are invited.
The party mood never forsakes “Kung Fu Yoga”. Director Stanley Tong gives Sonu Sood a chance to battle Jackie. Jackie gets tit for tat, ‘Sood samet’.
Their conflicts are shot with the winking aplomb of a war in which no one really gets hurt. And just to prove that it’s all in fun — “silly fun” — Chan and Sood break into a big Bollywood dance at the end with Chinese and Indian girls in bright yellow sarees shaking their shoulders and heads with touristic relish.
The action sequences are far superior to what we see in our own films. There’s an awe-inspiring underwater sequence with Jackie and Disha which is shot with the breathless languor of a lama riding across the Great wall. The extended car chase in Dubai which includes a roaring lion on a ride with Chan, is majestic and spectacular, better than any stunts on the road I’ve seen in recent films. Rohit Shetty, please note.
But my favourite action scene doesn’t involve Jackie Chan at all. It features Amyra Dastur (who is as useful as the plot as toppings to a pizza) and two Chinese actors trying to dodge a deep well filled with hungry hyenas. The lengthy heart-in-the-mouth sequence is shot like a video game. Aarif Rahman, who plays Jackie’s nephew, fights like Chan and can also act. The next martial-arts hero from China?
“Kung Fu Yoga” is one wild wacky goofy adventure saga. It isn’t fodder for the intellect. But it sure as hell is a lot of fun.