Chandni Chowk to China Cast: Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Chai Hui Liu, Roger Yuan
Director: Nikhil Advani
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Running Time: 154 minutes
Synopsis: From Chutney in India to Chow Mein in China, "Chandni Chowk to China" follows one man's passage from simple cook to kung fu fighter on a thrilling, madcap journey from the by-lanes of Chandni Chowk in Delhi, India, to the grandeur of the Great Wall of China and beyond. The first-ever Bollywood kung fu action comedy, the film brings together the two largest Asian communities, India and China, on one cinematic canvas.
Starring Bollywood's biggest action star, Akshay Kumar, the film parallels the actor's own journey to fame: Kumar worked as a cook before pursuing his passion for martial arts.
"Chandni Chowk to China" also stars stunning model-turned-actress Deepika Padukone, Bollywood veteran Mithun Chakraborty, Ranvir Shorey, and Chinese martial arts expert and actor Gordon Liu ("Kill Bill: Vols. 1 and 2").
Nikhil Advani ("Kal Ho Na Ho") directed the film from a screenplay by Shridhar Raghavan ("Bluff Master," "Khakhee"). Ramesh Sippy, Mukesh Talreja and Rohan Sippy are the producers.
The film also features stunts choreographed by veteran martial arts stunt coordinator Huen Chiu-Ku, whose credits include "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "Kill Bill: Vols. 1 and 2" and "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor." The musical trio Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy composing the eclectic score, an eclectic Indo-Chinese fusion inspired by the music of China and India.
"Chandni Chowk to China" focuses on the epic heroic journey of Sidhu (Kumar), a simple cook from Chandni Chowk who longs to escape his dreary existence and looks for shortcuts with everything from astrologers and tarot readers to a magic potato, believing in anything and everything except himself. His fate changes when two strangers from China claim him to be a reincarnation of a war hero from the past and enlist him to come back with them to their village in China.
His opportunistic translator, Chopstick (Ranvir Shorey), tells Sidhu of the women, wine and princely existence that await him in foreign lands; what Chopstick doesn't tell him is that he has become the village's best hope to take on the vicious gangster Hojo (Gordon Liu), who has been terrorising them. Along the way, Sidhu meets Sakhi, played by Deepika Padukone ("Om Shanti Om"), a stunning TV model who has embarked on her own adventure to pay homage to the land of her birth, her dead father and twin. Padukone also portrays Sakhi's long-lost twin sister, Meow.
Soon, Sidhu realises he is in way over his head and faces imminent defeat without a miracle. Only at his lowest point does he meet a Kung Fu master (Roger Yuan) who can help Sidhu find his inner hero, set the village free, and pursue the love of his life.
"Chandni Chowk to China" was shot at locations across Asia, including the Great Wall of China, Thailand and India.
Release Date: January 15th, 2009
Bollywood action star Akshay Kumar stars as Sidhu, an unlikely hero whose journey from a roadside food stall in Chandni Chowk, Delhi, to an epic battle against the backdrop of the Great Wall of China, forms the heart of "Chandni Chowk to China." For Akshay Kumar, one of India's biggest stars, the film represented not only a return to action films but also an emotional journey. He grew up in Chandni Chowk and was a chef in Bangkok before meeting his destiny and becoming a much-beloved actor and star worldwide.
Shridhar Raghavan, the film's screenwriter, reveals that the spirit of this action comedy was fuelled by two films he enjoyed watching as a child - both directed by one of the producers of the film, Ramesh Sippy: "Sholay," a film in the genre of "Seven Samurai"; and "Seeta Aur Geeta," the tale of two female twins separated at birth, one a firebrand and the other a gentle soul. "These were the kind of films I grew up on," says Shridhar Raghavan, "the kind of films I loved. The daunting part was to write a contemporary script evoking the spirit of those masala movies that combined action and comedy."
Shridhar Raghavan fused his Indian influences and fascination with Hong Kong cinema to create what he calls a "Kung Fu curry." "From '36 Chambers of Shaolin' to 'Kung Fu Hustle,' I love them all and I particularly like the way humor can be blended with action, a tradition that goes all the way back to Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd."
"I knew that this material, combining the martial arts spectacle of Chinese films with the song and dance of Bollywood, had the power to capture the imagination of contemporary audiences everywhere," says Ramesh Sippy.
To maintain all the flavors in the script while executing some very complicated logistics on a tight schedule, Ramesh Sippy brought in Nikhil Advani to direct. "Nikhil Advani is a dear friend, which made the prospect of working with him very comfortable and exciting as well," says Ramesh Sippy.
"One day Rohan came over and handed me the script of 'Chandni Chowk to China,' and I was instantly fascinated," says Nikhil Advani. "Rohan had recently returned from location scouting in China and the photographs further whetted my appetite. Of course, after the initial euphoria of a new, exciting project, the challenges of the action and comedy aspects dawned on me."
The story of the bumbling Sidhu, whose journey to China gives him an identity as well as a chance to believe in himself and save a village, resonated with the actor. Shridhar Raghavan and Ramesh Sippy were so enthusiastic about casting Akshay Kumar, they made a poster to present to the actor to give him a feel for the film. "I think the poster bowled him over," Ramesh Sippy recalls, "and, in fact, it is the same concept we used in the teaser poster of the film. I don't think we could have envisioned any other actor in the role of Sidhu. Akshay Kumar has breathed life into this role. People will feel sympathy when he is a fumbling Sidhu and will cheer when he beats up the bad guys. There are very few actors who can convince the audience to accept them as a simpleton and as a kung fu expert within the same movie."
To star opposite Akshay Kumar, as both the ingénue Sakhi and her long-lost twin, the femme fatale Meow Meow, the filmmakers cast Deepika Padukone, one of the most exciting debutante actresses in Bollywood. "Look out for this girl," says Ramesh Sippy. "She is extremely self-assured before the camera and held her own with her seasoned co-stars."
Bollywood veteran Mithun Chakraborty plays the man who raises Sidhu. Dada is Sidhu's conscience and also the catalyst for his transformation from a man who believes in taking the easy way out to a man who believes in himself. Their emotional scenes together form the soul of the film.
Another casting coup was Gordon Liu, the protagonist of the cult classic "36 Chambers of Shaolin," who was cast as Hojo. He is also widely known as Pai Mei from "Kill Bill: Vol. 2." "Our generation grew up on 'Gunmaster G-9 Mithun' and '36 Chambers,' and now these legends were here in flesh and blood, shooting with us," says Shridhar Raghavan, echoing the excitement of the director and producers.
Ireland-based actor Roger Yuan came on board as the Chinese Sifu who teaches Sidhu martial arts. A seasoned stunt actor who has been in several Hollywood and Asian films, Yuan makes his first foray in Bollywood films with "Chandni Chowk to China." For his role, Roger Yuan had to learn to speak Hindi, which he found harder than stunts, but passed with flying colors.
"When you have such a powerful presence as Akshay Kumar, you need actors who not only hold their own, but also create a wonderful camaraderie at the same time, and I can't tell you how happy I am that it has been achieved," says Nikhil Advani.
To create the film's substantial fight sequences, Rohan enlisted renowned Kung Fu action director Huen Chiu Ku, more widely known as Dee Dee, during a trip to China. Huen Chiu Ku brought to the film choreography that is at times raw and comic, and smooth and lyrical at others.
Nikhil Advani is a director who is used to being closely involved with every aspect of his films, from costumes to music to cinematography and lighting. In that aspect, Dee Dee's style was unorthodox and took some getting used to for the director. "There was no shot breakdown," Nikhil Advani recalls. "I would be on set, wondering what Dee Dee would cook up next. But his blend of intense preparation and whirlwind improvisation worked perfectly for the action needs of the film."
The film's star, Akshay Kumar, worked closely with Dee Dee on the fight preparation. Beyond being an exceptionally versatile and professional actor, he is one of the few actors in Bollywood who has the physique and agility to have carried off the exacting demands of this role. "He is a daredevil, he loves performing stunts, revelling when they are risky," says the director. "This attitude helped the production immensely because there was a stunt being filmed every single day, more often than not all day long."
Dee Dee likewise worked with Deepika Padukone, whose role as the stealthy Meow Meow required numerous fight scenes as well, but along with everyone else, the fight choreographer was impressed with how efficiently she performed her stunts, flashing her million watt smile.
The production shot in three different countries - India, China and Thailand - utilising local crew from all three countries. Producer Mukesh Talreja notes, "We have had Hindi-Chinese, English-Chinese, Thai-Chinese, Thai-English-Hindi - basically chaotic translations going on the whole time. Another major feat was recreating our Chinese village and building some other Chinese locations in Thailand. We had to be very careful with the details of our production design. We were shipping props from India to Thailand, from China to Thailand, making sure we got all the intricacies accurate. Of course, language barriers were unavoidable, but luckily led to very little being lost in translation, which in retrospect was mildly funny at times."
A huge compliment was when Ramesh Sippy walked onto the village set and said, "It looks like Ramgarh," Nikhil Advani recalls. Ramgarh is the name of the mythical village in "Sholay," the most popular and longest-running Indian film in history.
"It's been a wild ride," Nikhil Advani muses. "We have shot in some unbelievable locations. We had a rig on top of the Great Wall of China and Dee Dee's stunt team on wires suspended off the wall. Can you imagine, shooting action on one of the Seven Wonders of the World, in freezing cold, running up and down and all over the wall for different sequences. It was breathtaking in its audacity!"
"We have no doubts that with our potpourri of exciting elements, and very talented international cast and crew, this film will succeed in exciting audiences worldwide," says Ramesh Sippy.