There’s everything you’d want on a hearty Punjabi menu – finger-licking chicken, a family dhaba (roadside eatery) and a medley of emotions that goes from lust and raw humour to high drama. And there is the secret recipe for Chicken Khurana, the signature dish of the dhaba that must be found to restore sanity.
The plot: Good-for-nothing Omi Khurana (Kunal Kapoor) who had fled to London after helping himself to the family wealth, has returned to Lalton village in Punjab with creditors from UK hot on his heels. Can Omi return thus shame-faced to his village? Nopes, so he assumes the strut of a high-flying lawyer as he faces spunk-and-spice ex-flame Harman (Huma Qureshi) who gives him the cold shoulder for running away without compunction. There’s also an impressionable young cousin awestruck at the “self-made” Omi and mama Tito (Rajesh Sharma) to spread misery all around.
To complete the frame is Darji (Vinod Nagpal), an Alzheimer’s survivor who gets flashes of his memory when Omi is around. But to the family’s misfortune, Darji expires without parting with the secret recipe of their famous Chicken Khurana. And Omi’s uncle and aunty are on the brink of a financial breakdown ever since the family dhabas closed down. It’s left to Omi to salvage his reputation and give a robust restart to the dhaba business.
The good: Director Sameer Sharma (remembered for the screenplay of Swades) takes off from a club called Hell in London with Omi up to some enthralling evil out there. Expectations rise and one looks forward to a tight-knit plot. The curiosity doesn’t last, alas, as the narration soon drags and plummets. But scenes like the crow announcing the arrival of a new guest in the village are well shot. There are splashes of brilliance too, with humour filtering in through absurdity, especially in the kachche wala scene. The dialogues and accent are rudimentary and float along smoothly with the rustic setting. The music by Amit Trivedi is not the blatantly commercial variety but blends well with the theme and location.
The performances take the film a notch higher with raw, authentic work by Kunal and Huma. All the supporting pillars too, are not reduced to being just fringe characters.
The bad: The film loses its robust spunk when it slows down with irrelevant scenes and a forced storyline. Blame it on writer Sumit Batheja. The first half is like arthouse cinema with languorous and detailed frames. The second half gets active but there’s desperation to join the dots especially in the scene between Tito and his long-lost friend.
A little more editing to minimise the length and narrating one main story instead of several half-baked ones with loose ends, would have helped.
Overall: It’s the sluggish, self-indulgent flavour that puts you off this Chicken Vicken.
– Pooja Thakkar