Miya Abbas and miya Mustan, a million ecstatic thank yous for a tantalizing treat - Upen "Smooth Operator" Patel, of course. Our very own version of Marlon Brando, this delightful rake is Ghai's gift to womankind. Forgive me for this zealous nuttiness, but the heart is a slippery comrade.
36 China Town erupts with slick casino flashers and nymphs gyrating to a loud, snappy tune. You nestle into your seat and sit cosy, knowing this flick is right on - just what you ordered. A whodunnit (again!) murder mystery, but with none of the genre's malevolence and mucho actually-makes-you-guffaw humor. Don't expect a regular whodunnit, though.
Sonia Madam (Isha Koppikar) runs the snazzy Hollywood Casino in Goa. Her little son Vicky is missing, and she, stewing in this turmoil, posts a whopper amount as reward for the informer.
Through the customary sneakiness of fate (and the thriller genre), two strangers and runaways (from home), Raj (Shahid Kapur) and Priya (Kareena Kapoor), stumble upon the lost kid. They gang up and agree to split the reward.
After a courteous call to Mighty Mum Sonia, they set out for the Czarina's opulent nest, 36 China Town. This big brave idea blows up in their petrified faces when they bump into Madam's cold corpse. Suspect No. 1 and Suspect No. 2.
Rocky (Upen Patel) is Goa's wanton Don Juan, with rose-buds stacked in the insides of his dapper coat. On the morning of the murder he calls on Sonia Madam, and the same night, is spotted venturing into the lady's boudoir, through the window. Suspect No. 3.
KK (Johnny Lever) is a sucker for gambling, and with a cocksure will, foresees his big win. This because he is blessed with a certain Gambler Baba's lucky dice (Johnny and his antics!). His distressed wife can only foresee financial doom. (Note: By now chums Raj and Priya have hooked up and are canoodling to several love songs).
Natwar (Paresh Rawal) is a reformed gambler, but gives in to the whiff of the capricious casino. KK and Natwar lose it all, including their marbles. The two couples issue a tirade against Sonia Madam. Suspect Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 7.
Inspector Karan (Akshaye Khanna) rounds up these unsuspecting suspects. This rather James Stewart-ish detective matches all the crime scene footprints to these seven jokers. Yes, jokers, 'cos that's exactly what they are.
What ensues is a comic set of fantastic fibs whipped up by the suspects and consistently soured by the detective. This is a real stumper. Who dealt the Queen Bee her last fatal card?
36 China Town is typically Hitchcockian when running in murder-mystery mode. There are intertwined stories, all of which lead the suspects to the same cursed number, 36. The movie resonates with spooky clicking door knobs, scurrying footsteps and creepy sound effects. In scattered scenes, the frame exhibits an old world feel - an Inspector in bowler hat, shadowy motions in the big house, and a body stuffed in a suitcase.
Akshaye Khanna enacts the suave, subtle yet sharp detective with supreme panache. You'll drool over Upen Patel playing the compassionate libertine. Shahid and Kareena occasionally perk up the screen with their young love. Paresh Rawal and Johnny Lever do their usual funny bits. Sleek performances all, except for the stiff Isha Koppikar.
Go see this movie, but without an academic spoon sticking in the thriller genre. The climax might not seem a worthy one, but for most part of the movie, the guy on the next seat was perched on the edge. Need one say more.