Film: Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana
Director: Sameer Sharma
Cast: Kunal Kapoor, Huma Qureshi, Rajesh Sharma
Anurag Kashyap has been one of Hindi cinema's most prolific producers lately. Apart from releasing a bunch of films in theatres and showing some others at international festivals in 2012, his banner AFKPL has a slate of films lined up for next year. But while the filmmaker and his team continues to give talented filmmakers a platform to tell new stories, in co-productions mostly, it's impossible for any production house to keep everyone happy all the time.
Only last month, Kashyap's Aiyyaa opened to scathing reviews and largely empty houses. His latest film, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana (LSTCK), is neither anywhere close to the banner's more accomplished films like Udaan, nor is it as avoidable as Aiyyaa. It is an average fare, a film that has its heart in the right place but tries too hard too often.
LSTCK has an interesting premise – a patriarch never shared the secret to a lip-smackingly delicious chicken dish, called Chicken Khurana, with the rest of the family. With the man now suffering from Alzheimer's disease, the recipe remains a mystery, and the familial dhaba business – dependent largely on Chicken Khurana – has gone bust. The patriarch's grandson, Omi, returns home years after he robbed the family and absconded. The family accepts him back with open arms, but Omi has different plans.
Debutant director Sameer Sharma takes his own sweet time to establish the many oddball characters in his film, something that wouldn't have been a problem had the writing (Sharma and co-writer Sumit Bhateja) been wittier. The effort to infuse humour is too glaring and at the half-way mark, you are hoping for a turnaround. The pace picks up in the second half, which is peppered with some really amusing moments. The final 20 minutes bring the house down and helps redeem the film a great deal.
A big drawback is the casting of Kunal Kapoor as Omi — a role that demanded a more assured actor. I've always felt the Rang De Basanti actor deserved better roles and while the effort's there, Kapoor couldn't quite shoulder the film. Huma Qureshi, on the other hand, is charming as the fiery Punjaban, Harman, an old flame of Omi's. Her refreshingly natural acting style impresses again in a role that has shades of her character in the Gangs Of Wasseypur films.
When your lead character doesn't make the cut, there's little the supporting cast can do to salvage a film. Yet LSTCK's best moments revolve around actors Vinod Nagpal (playing the patriarch, Daarji), Rahul Bagga (who plays Omi's cousin, Jeet) and Rajesh Sharma (who plays Titu Mama). Sharma, especially, gets some good lines and keeps you in splits as the eccentric uncle. He has impressed with a variety of roles in a short span – the helpful cop in No One Killed Jessica, the slimy producer in The Dirty Picture – and delivers yet another memorable performance.
Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana benefits greatly from Sharma's presence, Amit Trivedi's enjoyable score and a funny second half. It's a light-hearted drama that leaves you with a smile, but in the week of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro and Skyfall, LSTCK is at best a good third choice.