Jackie Chan is back as a self-appointed custodian of national heritage in Kung Fu Yoga, and since his keen sense of preservation extends from China to India in the new movie, he automatically qualifies for a Padma Shri at the very least.
Reprising a character seen in Chinese Zodiac and The Myth, Chan is Jack, one of China’s leading archaeologists with a keen interest in ancient Indian history. An animated sequence at the beginning sets up the plot of Stanley Tong’s movie: once upon a time in Magadh, a warrior and his troops tried to save the kingdom’s treasure from a rapacious family member, only to perish in an avalanche. Many centuries later, Ashmita (Disha Patani) arrives at Jack’s door with a map of the location.
The treasure is discovered at the bottom of an ice-covered mountain in Tibet, but Randall (Sonu Sood) arrives with his posse to steal the treasure. A plot contrivance sends everybody to Dubai – a lucrative movie market both for Chinese audiences as well as Indian viewers targeted by the English dubbed version.
Every Jackie Chan movie has its share of niftily choreographed martial arts action scenes meshed with comedy. The best joke in Kung Fu Yoga occurs soon after Jack commandeers a vehicle belonging to a local sheikh in Dubai. In the back seat, of course, is a pet lion.
The action eventually shifts to Rajasthan and moves into unabashed Hollywood treasure hunt movie mode (Indiana Jones is one of my favourite characters, Jack cheekily says). Chan’s speech to Randall and his crew on preserving national artifacts from grave robbers and smugglers will ensure that if he wants to stage a kung fu fight on top of the Taj Mahal’s yellowing domes in his next film, he will have no problem with permissions.
Kung Fu Yoga has more kung fu and not too much of yoga, some of which is targetted at a pack of hapless hyenas. The Indian actors in the production (including Amyra Dastur as Ashmita’s sister) and the numerous young Chinese cast members suggests that Chan and director Tong want to cover all bases. The fast-paced plotting, and typically silly action-comedy sight gags ensure that the 103-minute running time breezes by, but there is little here that hasn’t been seen before, or that Chan hasn’t done better.