Cheeni Kum (literally, less sugar) is a Hindi film made by advertising executive and debutant director Balkrishnan. It is an unconventional love story between a middle-aged woman and an older man. This film released on May 25, 2007.
The film opens in the kitchen of Spice6, a (fictitious) Indian restaurant in London. Waiters, busboys and chefs are busy at work taking orders, preparing food and serving up a storm. At the center of this restaurant is an ornery head chef, Buddhadev Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan), presiding over "London's best restaurant". He is quick to fire a sous chef on the spot for making a small mistake. And he launches into a grand speech about the rise of the restaurant to prominence, about the art of cooking and how it stirs all the senses, and about the discipline and commitment required to maintain its stature.
One of the waiters, affectionately called Colgate (reference to the toothpaste) and incessantly teased because of his protruding front teeth, brings back a Hyderabadi Zafrani Pulav. The patron sent it back because cheeni zyada hai (it has more sugar, it is sweet). The great Buddhadev is enraged. He brings it back to the table and lays out the patrons. Is this their first time in London? How is Zafrani Pulav made at their home? Would they be so kind as to teach him? The patrons quietly leave. Buddhadev returns to the kitchen muttering about low air fares bringing planeloads of bloody tourists who simply cannot appreciate his art.
The next day Colgate brings back another Zafrani Pulav. Buddhadev tastes it and rattles off its ingredients. He pronounces it, the child of his kitchen, the best Zafrani Pulav in town. Colgate meekly informs him that it was not sent back, but cooked specifically for him by the previous night's patron.
That patron is Nina Verma (Tabu).
Over the next few days Buddhadev and Nina run into each other a few times. Nina, a 34-year old software engineer, is intelligent, charming, playful, and strong willed, all under a quiet external demeanor. Buddhadev is every bit the pompous, irritable and lonely old man he portrays. The film takes us into his life. He returns, night after night, to his lodgings and to his aged mother (Zohra Sehgal in an excellent performance). The bright spot in his life is his quick-witted 9-year old neighbor Sexy (Swini Khara). She teases him, checks up on him and dispenses advice (with apparent wisdom way beyond her age) about his problems. For all her wit and wisdom, Sexy suffers from leukemia. She also laments that she is not able to watch A-rated (analogous to R-rated films in America) films. Buddhadev offers to bring her DVDs. (Later in the film, she says there is nothing in them she didn't already know. She fast-forwards through them in an attempt to finish watching them all as quickly as possible.)
Buddhadev gradually gets closer to Nina. There is constant lively banter between them. She asks him why he fired yet another sous chef; if he is pleased to accept compliments about the food prepared by the sous chefs then he should gracefully accept criticism (and in this case fire himself!) too. Buddhadev is gradually summoning the courage to ask her out; she playfully suggests that he should come right out and ask without fear. Ask her name, she says, with a coy smile.
At some point during the next week, Buddhadev asks her if she will marry him. She accepts. When she goes to talk to his mother, she gets a phone call about her father, in Delhi, being admitted to the hospital. Right around this time, Sexy's condition worsens and she is admitted to a local hospital.
Buddhadev arrives in Delhi to meet Nina's father, Mr. Verma (Paresh Rawal). Mr. Verma is a typical old Indian retiree. He spends his life in Bhajan (devotional songs, mainly focused on Gandhi), Bhojan (food) and Bhaji (references Harbhajan Singh and represents his love for cricket). Nina informs Buddhadev that her father, at 58, is younger than him! After a few false starts, Buddhadev asks Mr. Verma for his daughter's hand in marriage.
Mr. Verma is shocked and disgusted. He flatly refuses. Over my dead body, he raves at Nina. She immediately, yet quietly, asks him when he plans to go! He calmly tells her that he is concerned about her. Buddhadev is already and old man; how much longer can he live? She says she prefers spending a few years with a man she loves instead of a lifetime with some man she does not love.
It is a stalemate. Mr. Verma puts up a bhookh hartal (fast, something commonly employed by Gandhi as a means of peaceful disobedience). Buddhadev arrives at the denouement. What is Mr. Verma's problem? He lays out the facts and addresses Mr. Verma's fears. He is adequately covered by insurance; Nina need not worry.
Mr. Verma finally relents. No sooner than Buddhadev hears this, he receives word from London that Sexy has passed away.
The film ends with Buddhadev, Nina, Buddhadev's mother and Mr. Verma having dinner at Spice6. Buddhadev offers to fulfill one of Mr. Verma's life goals: watching a game of cricket at Lord's stadium.
- Amitabh Bachchan as Buddhadev Gupta
- Tabu as Nina Verma
- Paresh Rawal as Omprakash Verma
- Zohra Sehgal as Buddhadev Gupta's mother
- Swini Khara as Sexy
- Vinay Jain as Sexy's Father
Music Composer Ilayaraja has composed 7 tracks. The reaction towards this album is generally positive. Fans of the maestro have praised Raja's efforts in spreading the acclaimed Tamil tunes and modernizing it in Hindi. Although some fans have panned that Raja should've created some more tunes and should've created an original soundtrack rather than recycle his classic Tamil tunes. Reviewers such as Indiafm has rated "Cheeni Kum" 3 stars out off 5 with Joginer Tuteja quoting "'Cheeni Kum' turns out to be an enjoyable album which has its moments throughout its 7 track duration. While one never expected a musical from a film which told a love story that had never been seen before, 'Cheeni Kum' manages to throw in a nice-n-little pleasant surprise." Other sites such as Planet Bollywood, Sulekha, and fellow internet bloggers have praised Raja's melodious tunes in comparison's to today's music given by Himesh Reshamiya or Anu Malik.
Similarly Businessofcinema.com gave the album a 3/5 rating and mentioned that "sounds of the instruments and Vocals blend in harmony to provide a simple yet powerful score. This album is a must have, especially to play in between all those generated scores we are usually subjected to."
However, Rediff.com reviewer, Sonia Chopra has given the album a 2.5 out 5 stars quoting "The music is largely monotonous; only one or two voices have been used throughout. Not that Shreya Ghosal is not a good singer, she's terrific; but three songs one after the other, with the same voice, does begin to grate on your nerves. Plus, all the songs sound similar. Even lyrics by Sameer and Manoj Tapadia are disappointing and mediocre. When people say that they appreciate simple lyrics, they don't mean lyrics without any imagination whatsoever!"
|Soundtrack by Ilayaraja|
|1||Cheeni Kum||Shreya Ghoshal||Adapted from "Mandram Vantha" from the Tamil film Mouna Raagam|
|2||Sooni Sooni||Vijay Prakash||Adapted from "Mandram Vantha" from the Tamil film Mouna Raagam|
|3||Baatein Mein||Amitabh Bachchan,Shreya Ghoshal||Adapted tune from Kuzhaloodhum kannanukku’ from the Tamil film ‘Mella thirandhadhu kadhavu’|
|4||Jaane Do||Shreya Goshal||Adapted from ‘Jotheyali Jothe Jotheyali’ from Kannada film, Geetha. An earlier version is "Vizhiyile Undan vizhiyile" from Tamil film, Nooravadu Naal|
|5||Baatein Mein Without||Shreya Ghoshal||Adapted from 'Kuzhaloodhum kannanukku’ from the Tamil film ‘Mella thirandhadhu kadhavu’'|
|7||Saxophone Instrumental||Various||Adapted from 'En Iniya Pon’ from the Tamil film ‘Moodupani’'|
"Cheeni Kum" mostly met with an average feeback. The acting has been universally praised. Also, the film's bold theme met with critical goodwill. However, the rather slow story lead some part of the audience to label the film "boring" and the rather repetitive final part of the film met with some concern from reviewers and audiences alike.
- Movie Review: Cheeni Kum on MovieWalah.com
- Cheeni Kum (2007) Movie Review at BollywoodArchive.com
- Businessofcinema.com : Cheeni Kum review