The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bland and bawdy

Fourteen years after Shah Rukh Khan’s dilwala Raj charmed the Singh parivaar of Punjab to take home his dulhania, Aamna Sharif’s Aamna (the makers were probably too lazy to come up with another name for the one-time Balaji bahu, and that’s just the beginning of their indolence) does the same with a conservative Punjabi family living in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar. With the same predictable result.

If you feel it’s blasphemous to mention Aloo Chaat in the same breath as Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, then aapka jawaab bilkul sahi hai. Apart from the premise — with a gender switcheroo — there is nothing about this stale caper that comes anywhere close to repeating the magic of the 1995 cult romance.

Crude and crass, bawdy and boring, Aloo Chaat is two hours badly spent. Rehashing every cliche associated with those living up north, Aloo Chaat is about a boisterous Punjabi family headed by patriarch Purshottam (Kulbhushan Kharbanda). His son Nikhil (Aftab Shivdasani) returns from America and refuses to settle for an arranged marriage — with the granny even thinking he is heading the “broken-toota mountain” way (that’s Brokeback Mountain for you). Little does the family know that Nikhil is in love with Aamna, but fears that his conservative folks will never accept a “Musalmaan bahu”.

A hapless Nikhil enlists the help of family friend Tarachand (Manoj Pahwa), who happens to be a sexologist (groan!). The two come up with the idea of setting up a bikini-sporting, hailing-from-a-broken-family “gori mem” (Linda Arsenio) as Nikhil’s chosen one while Aamna goes about the task of winning over the family. From then on, what could have been a breezy rom-com slips into wannabe DDLJ mode.

Coming from the same director who gave us the gripping Se7en-inspired Samay and also MP3, a cute-as-a-button romance with an Archie comics feel, Aloo Chaat leaves a bad taste in the mouth. At just two hours, the film feels far too long (editing by Aarif Shaikh) while the dialogues (Robby Grewal and Divyanidhi Sharma) are plain unfunny. Like when Tarachand tells an agitated Purshottam, “Jawaan bete se aise baat karte hain?” and Purshottam replies, “Jawaan hai toh border pe chala jai.

But what makes the boring watch intolerable is the risque humour. The hapless audience is expected to break into guffaws when a patient tells sexologist Tarachand, “Mere 6 baje hain. Mere 12 bajwaa do.” (Sic, or rather Sick!)

The performances? An earnest, desperate-in-need-of-a-hit Aftab tries his best but is unable to rise above a mediocre script. Kulbhushan Kharbanda and the rest of his family are fittingly loud, but that’s about it. Linda Arsenio (seen earlier in Kabul Express) slips into her role with ease. It is only Sanjay ‘Apple Singh’ Mishra who manages a few laughs. Aamna Sharif’s role is an unimpressive two-hour extension of her four-year long Kashish act in Kahiin To Hoga. The music by RDB, Xulfi, Vipin Mishra and Mehfuz Maruf adds to the messy meal.

Steer clear of this bland and bawdy Aloo Chaat. The roadside hawker’s concoction is a far more appetising option.

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