Aloo Chat Movie Review
Like all other films this week, this one too is interestingly titled. But Aloo Chaat’s content is not as palatable as the film’s mouth-watering name.
The story is admittedly inspired by Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’s plot, except for the gender switcheroo. Nikhil (Aftab Shivdasani) is an America-returned Punjabi munda –the kind who, at his age, asks for his parents’ permission to take his fiancée about town. The lady he’s supposedly engaged to (Linda Arsenio: Kabul Express, Mumbai Salsa) is just a false front for his real love.
Since his actual girlfriend’s name is Aamna (Aamna Shariff), Nikhil fears his family’s immediate rejection over her religion. So along with uncle Hakeem Tarachand (Manoj Pahwa), a sexologist who claims to cure “anything” within 15 days, Nikhil devised a sneaky plan.
As per their design, they got a “gori”, a crude colloquial for a foreigner, to pose as Nikhil’s bikini-sporting and culture-less fiancée, who far from cooking an Indian meal, also comes from a divorced family.
Accompanying her is Aamna, posing as a friend, but actually working on winning the hearts of Nikhil’s family by cooking dinner, singing a folk song at the sangeet, lecturing about Indian culture and wearing the world’s most boring clothes, almost all in white. The film then has some interesting story turns, with the family’s idiot Chhadami (Sanjay Mishra) always suspecting something’s not as it seems.
One can’t help being surprised at the overtly chauvinistic tone of the film. This, when the film otherwise maintains a fresh and lighthearted tone. As for the family, it’s full of the usual suspects, made somewhat likeable by the superb actors.
There’s the patriarchal family head (Kulbhushan Kharbanda), his conservative yet comical mother (Dolly Ahluwalia, to die for), his kitchen-bound wife (Meenakshi) and her brother Chhadami who, for some strange reason, everyone treats disrespectfully. For laughs, there’s a Punjabi pop star with rings on every inch of his fingers, who visits the sexologist uncle discreetly; and two aloo chaat vendors who we meet at key junctures in the story.
Of the central cast, the limelight stealer is Linda Arsenio who plays her character as the sometimes confused, but always bright and sprightly do-gooder. Aamna maintains her straight-haired, traditional look from television and doesn’t have much to do except throw us a glossy-lipped smile off and on.
Aftab, a good actor yet to get his due, gets a bit lost among the melee of actors. But his chemistry with both the female actors is crackling, especially with Aamna. Manoj Pahwa and Sanjay Mishra (once seen together in the TV serial LOC) are both fabulous.
Songs are interesting (the film credits four talents as music directors), and most have a north-Indian flavor. Director Robby Grewal (Samay, MP3) has got the Delhi-based Punjabi family nuances just right (except for the family’s tradition of not eating food cooked by a Muslim), adding his own imaginative touches like the band that’s plays a western tune to welcome the foreigner bahu.
And that, coupled with a few moments of hilarious developments (the granny worries about Nikhil’s sexuality after watching “BrokenToota Mountain” on TV) makes you realise the film it could have been.
One can’t recommend Aloo Chaat simply because the `who’s-a-good-bahu’ recipe has turned stale, and the audience’s taste has since evolved.