Chori Chori (2003)

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I have been meaning to write about this—my very most favorite film ever, of any kind—since I started this blog. Alas, procrastination is my middle name!

But finally, here goes. This film was actually made in 2001 or so, but its release was delayed because the producer died or something. It is a remake of the Hollywood film “Housesitter” but it isn’t a scene by scene ripoff. Rather, it has taken the storyline and retold it in an Indian setting with an Indian sensibility, and it’s just perfect. The script and direction (and editing) are tight and the pace perfect; there is nothing extraneous, and every scene adds dimension to the film. The songs by Sajid Wajid are wonderful and fit perfectly into the movie, and all the characters—even the most minor—are portrayed vividly by an exceptional cast which includes the legendary Kamini Kaushal.

It is the star pair, though, whose chemistry sizzles and sparks, and who are so true to life that you can immediately identify with them. Khushi (Rani Mukherjee) is alone in the world, an orphan bluffing her way through life with a lively curiosity and an open heart. Ranvir (Ajay Devgan) is a dreamer and a bit of a loner, whose large, boisterous family doesn’t really understand him, and who has learned to keep his emotions shut up inside.

Our film opens in Delhi during Diwali, with Khushi celebrating a lonely holiday with her stuffed monkey, Jonathan. She’s a cheerful, happy girl, though, and makes the best of it. When an Aunty from the orphanage she grew up in calls to tell her about a friend’s wedding, she promises to sing at the wedding and makes up a story to get out of going to work. She tells her old friends that she’s very happy living on her own in the big city but they aren’t fooled by her positive attitude—they know she is lonely. One of the Uncles says that she “gives so much of love to everybody”

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Meanwhile, in beautiful Simla, our hero Ranvir is planning to show Puja (Sonali Bendre), the woman he’s loved from childhood, the dream house that he’s building for them. Ranvir is an architect at a large firm in Delhi. Puja is taken by surprise when he says it’s his engagement gift to her—he has never told her of his feelings for her. She rejects the idea of marrying him:

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Ranvir, crushed, returns to his job in Delhi. He’s frustrated by his work designing office buildings; he dreams of building homes instead. One evening the company has a party at the banquet hall where Khushi works. Ranvir sits at the bar, where he downs whiskey and draws the house he’s building on a napkin. Khushi has been put to work taking inventory at the bar as punishment for bunking work earlier, and they strike up a conversation. Khushi takes a look at his drawing. He tells her about the house in Simla, and about how he has been “found wanting” by the one he was building it for.

The next morning her boss (who is also her landlord) comes and throws her out of her job and her home. He has lost patience with her repeated absences from work and lack of rent. As she sits on the sidewalk with her belongings and a homeless pair of drunks whom she has befriended, she takes out a napkin to wipe her tears, and realizes that it’s the drawing she had picked up the evening before. Her problems are solved!

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Cut to Simla. The house is still under construction, but it beats being homeless for sure!

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Khushi has very little money and plans to shoplift some supplies until she overhears the shop owner talking about another woman’s account. When it’s her turn to pay, she tells him to put it on Ranvir’s account. The owner assumes that she is Ranvir’s new wife and congratulates her heartily, which she plays along with happily. Someone else is in the store too, and overhears—Puja. She follows Khushi out and introduces herself. Khushi recognizes her from a photo Ranvir had shown her and explains that they aren’t married—yet, just engaged. She’s using her holiday to check out Simla and the house to make sure she’d be happy here with him, but he’s busy with work and couldn’t come there with her. She invites Puja to take her out to dinner the next day and Puja, naturally bewildered, agrees. Khushi decides that in exchange for living in his house, she will convince Puja to marry Ranvir.

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On the way home, she decides to buy some furniture that’s for sale outside a large house. When the proprietor (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) comes out, he finds her lounging on an expensive sofa. She tells him to put it on her husband Ranvir Malhotra’s account. Oops—he is Ranvir’s father, and the house belongs to the large Malhotra family. They embrace her as one of their own. The next morning Ranvir’s mother and aunt take Khushi some bangles to welcome her into the family. She accepts them with some pangs of guilt. It’s the first time she’s experienced this kind of familial love, and she is seduced by it. She meets Puja for lunch and lays it on thick.

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Puja is suitably impressed. Ranvir in the meantime has decided to take some time off from his job to work on the house. He arrives to find Khushi in possession. She tells him a sad, sad story which is mostly untrue, and he doesn’t believe her anyway. He is furious when he finds out the whole town—and his family!—think she is his fiancee, and she has even gotten bangles from his mother (it’s an extremely funny scene). He accuses her (not entirely unfairly) of being a thief and a liar. When she tells him that Puja also bought her lunch, he chases her out of the house—only to come face to face with Puja herself. Khushi escapes back into the house and Ranvir starts to explain things to Puja. She interrupts him:

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and he realizes that she’s looking at him in a new light because of Khushi. After Puja leaves, he strikes a deal with Khushi. She’ll continue to help him win Puja, and she can stay in the house. She also makes him give her a weekly salary, and the furniture, and he agrees.

The drama commences. Khushi helps with the building and decoration of the house, and becomes a much loved member of the family. She gives Ranvir advice about Puja, songs are sung, dreams are shared. She convinces Ranvir’s boss to promote him to partner, and have him design houses instead of office buildings, and encourages Ranvir to follow his heart—something nobody has done for him before:

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As things become more complicated, they realize that they will need to actually go through with a wedding. They decide that Khushi will back out at the last minute, accusing Ranvir of still loving Puja—and then Ranvir can marry Puja on the spot. They haven’t noticed that they have begun to fall in love with each other.

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When they finally do realize it, they are unprepared. In his confusion, Ranvir lashes out at Khushi, accusing her of taking everything away from him, his family, his love—everything, and all just because she’s after his money. She is unbearably hurt, and though his family convinces her not to leave (with a wonderful song):

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she withdraws completely from Ranvir. Her dreams—and her heart—have been shattered.

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As the wedding day approaches, family and friends gather, and the house is finished (and spectacular). Can Khushi and Ranvir go through with the charade?

It’s a full-box-of-tissues movie for me, and I highly recommend it. It’s funny, poignant, and sweet. And how I wish Ajay Devgan would do more romantic roles! (Is there anyone that Rani doesn’t make a good jodi with?)

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20 Comments to “Chori Chori (2003)”

  1. I soooo have to agree with you (except I can’t cry on movies – even the ending of Kal Ho Naa Ho cannot make me really sniffle… a real lack in character)! mostly I agree about rani! having seen this film basically from end to beginning to end just to start it again and it still never disappoints me when I put it on and grips my whole romantic side … it is actually the one movie that made me dig up allll (and let’s face it, many of them are not too great) movies with ajay in even slightly romantic roles…. though I do like pyaare tho hona hi tha (as long as you cut out all scenes with Kajol’s actual love interest and the supposed comedy) and Deewane as long as the screen and lines space of the two girls is limited … but I too don#t understand why he never did full romantic leads after such a movie… a pity really. so thanks for the review and praise!

  2. I can’t believe this film sank without a trace in India. Not enough people have seen it.

    Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha is the film that got me hooked on Hindi movies. I love it :-) I wrote about it in the “Borrowed from Hollywood” post…Ajay is the first Hindi film hero that made me want to see more of him specifically.

  3. Beth Loves Bollywood alerted me to your review of “Chori Chori.” I’ve also written about it recently on my blog, but I have to say that your appreciation is more subtle, nuanced–and accurate–than my rather hasty piece.

    I was less impressed with Ajay than you or Greta; to me he seemed to underplay his character a bit too much (admittedly, Ranvir’s vacillating and unsure of his own feelings until the final frames). But I agree about his chemistry with Rani, and especially about her wonderful performance, which for me is what makes this film special. And you are so right to point to the excellent supporting characters as well.

    I also agree that the music and dance sequences are excellent. I wanted Rani’s first performance of the title song at the wedding to be *much* longer. The songs and choreography are so effective at revealing the characters’ complicated emotions, especially Khushi and Ranvir’s growing feelings for each other. In fact, I was a bit puzzled when, after a song that seems to suggest that they’ve both come to realize that their charade is becoming real, Ranvir returns to his suspicion of Khushi and her motives (and to the denial of his own feelings), and we have another half-hour of misunderstandings. Not that I’m complaining…

    Anyway, thanks for writing about “Chori Chori” so well–it makes me a little ashamed of my own piece, which isn’t as generous as yours (in several senses). I hope your post inspires people to discover this overlooked gem.

  4. I’m glad you like my review, also glad you love the movie! I will read your review too. It’s probable that I’ve seen the movie more than you have (at least 20+ times—it’s the one I pick up when I need to laugh and cry and generally self-indulge ;-)…

    I think that when they do realize they love each other is when Ajay is really great — he plays his character’s inability to express his feelings so well. His pain at causing her pain is palpable, but he is still trapped in his own insecurities and feeling misunderstood by everyone. And she is too hurt now to reach out to him as she has before. Stalemate!

  5. Aww, that whole last scene had me fighting the lump in my throat–until I realized that, hey! It’s a Bollywood movie, why fight? :-D

  6. I start crying when they have their fight and Rani tries to leave (although I do laugh a bit during the placate your beloved song) and just continue weeping until the end. Indeed, why fight it?

    I just love this movie, hope you did too :-)

  7. The movie finally released wen Ajay won a national award..had watched dis first day…..almost nobody remembers this now…

  8. Yes, it came and went without a stir. But I LOVE it.

  9. Hi Memsaab

    I liked Chori Chori very much when I first saw it on DVD (borrowed from a friend).

    To my surprise none of my friends or even family think much of it. In fact they are surprised that i liked it so much.

    I liked the movie for all the reasons you have listed in your review. Ajay has indeed done a good job and he is very good in romantic roles (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam worked for me coz of him). It is a pity he does not do many romanctic roles although one would not blame him coz they don’t seem to fare well. Even his own home prod – Dil Kya Kaare with Kajol and Mahima failed. I liked that movie too – good story, direction, songs and acting.

    Last night I saw Chori-2 again and still found it refreshing. There is something about this movie that keeps pulling you back to watch it

    cheers

  10. Chori Chori is a very overlooked film, because it got delayed by an year in its release.
    But I love this movie! Again, I believe this is Rani Mukherji’s most overlooked performance. She was too good!

    And then, I can so very well relate to the world of dreamers… :)

  11. Well, along with me and ed, ajnabi and Anonymous above you are one of its few cheerleaders :-) People just don’t know what they are missing—but it’s their loss! :-D

  12. I enjoyed this film a lot too. Rani was great as a trickster. I love Ajay when he plays a brooding character. (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Omkara, Raincoat to name a few) He’s sensitive, artistic soul who only I can understand, l and you and ed and ajnabi and Anonymous too.

  13. I also love this movie. Can anybody tell me where I can get the soundtrack. I have contacts here in New Zealand through a Bollywood shop, but they can’t seem to find one for me. Any ideas?

    Rita

  14. It’s available on iTunes—search for Chori Chori (Original Soundtrack).

    I love the songs!

  15. I like Ajay Devgun. He does not overact like Shahrukh Khan.

  16. Who plays the drunks? Were they credited?

  17. By shashikala do you mean the vamp – i mean of the 60’s or another one? I didn’t know she still acted if it is her ;)

  18. The drunk in khaki shorts in Snap no 4 is Sadashiv Amarapurkar. He is well known actor doing villan or comedy roles.

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