What I like most about Cheeni Kum is that it is a story about people who are adult enough to know themselves and then behave and make decisions accordingly. Somehow there's a matter-of-factness about the way they relate to each other, and their relationship as a whole, that I found endearing. Here are these two strange little creatures who don't seem to mind that they are different from most other people (though we don't get much input from "other people" in the movie - it's mostly their own little world, which is how it feels at the beginning of a good relationship, isn't it?), and though they quickly recognize their odd-duck partner, we still get to see them trying to work out the conjunction. They're true to themselves but they're careful with the other person. There may not be sugary froth, but it's still sweet as can be.
Now that is a movie love story to covet.
And yes, ordinarily I would be skeeved out by the age difference and angry that two weeks before I saw Cheeni Kum, Shahrukh flirting with Bindu in Om Shanti Om was played as ridiculous, as a joke. I can't imagine that we'll see Dimple Kapadia and Saif Ali Khan having an actual, mutual relationship, one like that in Cheeni Kum,* anytime soon, and that is annoying for its double-standardness. And the way of cultures around the world. Etc. It works here because they're up front about it, they discuss it, and nobody pretends it isn't so. We see them as sensible grown-ups elsewhere in the movie, not as a lech and a plaything.
Really the only thing that bothered me was a nagging question about why the little girl was called Sexy. I'm not buying the idea that it was a nod to letting her taste something of the adult world - after all, she didn't have the experience to really understand what the word means. (I daresay being a woman named Sexy and navigating the wilds of London could be most unpleasant, if at times humorous. Once she got to the jungle of middle school, she'd change it anyway.) And to make that point, they just as well could have called her Home Ownership or Income Tax .** If anyone has an explanation, by all means, do tell.
A good point from my friend Abby, who is in vet school (this is relevant): do you remember where Amitabh and Paresh Rawal are when Amitabh tells him he's dating his daughter? In the loo. In the act. Marking their territory. Maybe not quite so grown-up after all - but if that's the most juvenile a story gets, then sign me up.
* Suggestions for other pairings for a reverse Cheeni Kum are welcome. I also considered Shabana Azmi with either Saif or Rahul Khanna, due mainly to Shabana's gravitas as a film personality. I think the gravitas of the older character is necessary - that keeps the skeeviness in check. The younger player should also not be an idiot, not a piece of fluff. Preferably both have done a range of roles across the seriousness spectrum and are able to handle comedy.
** Fun game! If we want to be very filmi, we could call her Shaadi. Or if we want to be "less sugar," we could call her Trampy...Desperate...Spinster Auntie...so many options.