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Jackie Chan’s Kung-Fu Yoga may be kicking up some serious box-office numbers in China but in India the film has opened to underwhelming numbers and mostly negative to scathing reviews, particularly for the abundant use of stereotypes.
India does not officially report box-office figures, but some local reports are indicating that the film has had a less- than-stellar opening when it bowed here Feb. 3. Local media quoted an industry website Box Office Collection reporting that on opening day, the film collected about $588,000 (40 million rupees) reflecting an occupancy rate of 25 to 30 percent, considered average at best. By contrast, the film opened strongly in China with its $38.5 million haul when it bowed Jan. 28 during the Chinese New Year weekend.
Since it was announced as the first India-China co-production in 2014, just months after the two Asian giants signed a co-production treaty, there has been much anticipation around Kung-Fu Yoga in how it would marry the cinematic sensibilities of both countries. Moreover, expectations were further fueled as the project reunited director Stanley Tong (Rumble in the Bronx) with Chan.
But Indian critics have been far from impressed with Kung-Fu Yoga, which has received some scathing reviews. “A mangled mess” is what the Hindustan Times newspaper called the film, adding that Tong, who also wrote the script, “is big on simplicity and stereotypes. This isn’t a nuanced take on either culture. It’s designed as a rollercoaster ride.”
The sight of Chan dancing in a specially staged end-credits Bollywood dance sequence, choreographed by well-known choreographer Farah Khan, has also received a mixed response. Added the Times: “The film ends with the cast dancing vigorously…on the steps of an ancient temple. By which time, some of the reviewers in the show I saw, were laughing out loud. A sort of cinematic delirium had set in.”
Lambasting the film as an “overdose of cultural stereotypes,” The Wire said in its review that “Tong and his crew, from the film, look like the kind of people who come to India, pay for a ‘slum tour,’ go back to their countries, patting themselves on the back, claiming to have understood an entire country. Or the kinds who failed cultural studies class in college.”
Kung-Fu Yoga revolves around Chan as a Chinese archaeologist who teams up with an Indian professor, played by Bollywood actress Disha Patani, as the duo embark on an adventure to find a lost treasure. Spanning locales in China, Tibet, India and Dubai, the film features Bollywood actor Sonu Sood as the villain.
The Indian Express slammed the film as “a big yawn,” adding that Kung-Fu Yoga was “a cheat title, because it has barely any yoga and a lot of jaded kung fu moves, and does nothing but put you to sleep.”
The film’s depiction of Indian exotica seems to be its biggest flaw, as Mid-Day pointed out in its review that snake charmers and the great Indian rope trick is what “you would imagine featuring in a film with the Brit James Bond, or the American Indiana Jones, back in the eighties/nineties. Except, this is a joint Indo-Chinese production.”
The Mint lamented that “Kung Fu Yoga could have been a fun mash-up of Chinese martial arts and Indian acrobatics. But for that it would have needed a script, which seems to have been misplaced, and some decent performances.”
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