The Punjabisation of Bollywood has meant that on-screen depictions show a very polished version of Punjab. Fluttering dupattas, lush fields, glitzy weddings and lively dancing are what Punjab is all about, but Sameer Sharma's "Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana" doesn't stick to any of the stereotypes, which is a relief.
The streets are bumpy, the women aren't flawlessly dressed and the men do not break out into bhangra or slap each other on the back at every given opportunity. Sharma's film is simple and shorn of any plasticity, and even though the recipe does go haywire a couple of times, Sharma manages to salvage the dish in the end.
His protagonist Omi (Kunal Kapoor) is a selfish young man, who runs away from home as a teenager after robbing his grandfather of his life savings to emigrate to the UK. Ten years later, he is broke, unemployed and in debt. When a gangster threatens him with death, Omi flees to India.
Back in Punjab, Omi finds that his grandfather has lost his memory and with it, the recipe for his famous "Chicken Khurana" which was the mainstay of their roadside restaurant menu. To add to his woes, his younger brother is getting married to the girl Omi once loved.
Desperate for money, Omi decides to re-create the recipe for the chicken dish, and set his life in order while at it.
The film follows a set pattern and you can predict the story within the first 20 minutes or so, but it does possess a quirky sense of humour that works. Rajesh Sharma as the slightly demented uncle has the best lines in the film, and will make you laugh.
Sharma's film is shorn of all glamour — his lead actress (Huma Qureshi) wears plain sweaters and drives a bike clumsily — but that is exactly what makes the film likeable. The dialogue is colloquial and the repartees are witty, except for the parts where it degenerates to toilet humour.
For a film that has food in its title, the story meanders along needlessly and chicken curry makes an appearance only in the second half . Some of the jokes do fall flat and Kunal Kapoor just doesn't have the acting chops needed to carry off a lead role. He does try very hard though, but a stronger lead actor would have made a big difference to the film.
"Chicken Khurana" isn't perfectly cooked, nor is it one of those beautiful dishes you see in cookery shows or in magazines, but it does have the warmth of a home-made dish. Give it a chance.
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