“Buddies In India” is a Chinese comedy-adventure film set mostly in India. It is written, directed by and starring comedian/actor/martial artist Wang Baoqiang.
Wang plays Wu Kong, an isolated, quirky hermit living with and looking after a horde of baby monkeys. Wu is battling to save their home, which also happens to be the last building ready to be demolished to make way for a new skyscraper. The CEO of the corporation, who is unwell, sends his son, Tang Sen (played by Bai Ke) to defeat Wu but fails. While this is happening Tang’s father passes away. His last words from his deathbed to Tang are for him to go to India to recover his hidden will and to take Wu with to protect him. As they embark on their journey in India, the two are joined by a clumsy local company employee, Zhu Tianteng (Yue Yunpeng) and an old flame of Tang’s, Wu Jing (Liu Yang).
This film is a modern take on the Journey to the West folk tale, which originates from the sixteenth century and tells the story of the legendary pilgrimage of Buddhist monk, Xuanzang, who travelled across central Asia and India to obtain Buddhist sacred texts. Joining him were three disciples, Sun Wukong (also known as the Monkey King), Zhu Bajie (Pigsy) and Sha Wujing (Sandy). It is described as one of the four greatest novels of Chinese literature and has been adapted many times over the years into films and tv series including the Monkey, the iconic Japanese tv series (which was televised by the BBC to English audiences during the 1980s), The Forbidden kingdom (with Jackie Chan and Jet Li) and Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons (directed by Stephen Chow).
At a time now when the Chinese film industry is globalising itself more than ever, films like these are a treat to see on the big screen (especially in London, England). The timing of this release was to coincide with the Chinese New Year. Also released for the Chinese New Year are the Stephen Chow produced/Tsui Hark directed sequel “Jouney to the West 2: The Demons Strike Back” (currently on general release) and “Kung Fu Yoga” (release date to be confirmed) which stars Jackie Chan. It is interesting to note that although Journey to the West 2 is a sequel to which this film is loosely based on, “Kung Fu Yoga” also has a connection to “Buddies in India“, as it is the second release this year where the Chinese film industry and India have collaborated on film.
Going back to the film itself, “Buddies in India” is a treat to watch. As with most Chinese films, it does take a small amount of time to get use to the subtitles, for those who are not already use to them. The opening scene does start with a small amount of jumpy, fast cuts which, thankfully, does not last long. The scenes with Wu defending his home against construction workers contains a great blend of martial arts, acrobatics and even features Tang first confronting Wu on a hover-board in a superhero costume.
Overall “Buddies in India” is a fun bromance, comedy full of funny moments. It is great to see Wang Baoqiang in this genre. He seems at home and it is easy to forget how mean and menacing he was in “Kung-fu Jungle” (aka Kung-fu Killer in the UK/US), as a vicious killer of martial arts masters being pursued by Donnie Yen. The scenery and costumes are great and easy on the eye to watch, as the two main characters wonder through and get caught up in various scenarios such as a chilli pepper eating competition where Wu becomes his inner monkey and a sari factory where the pair are first ambushed by Wu Jing.