The Brutal Murder of Kung Fu and Yoga

Pop Culture

The Brutal Murder of Kung Fu and Yoga

Illustration: Juergen Dsouza

Kung fu and yoga have a lot in common. They are both ancient spiritual practices perfected over centuries. Its practitioners meanwhile have waited patiently for Jackie Chan and Sonu Sood to team up in a new movie to eradicate both of them in one go.

It’s now been roughly a gazillion years that wise men from India and China have been working to bring yoga and kung fu to the world and culmination of that noble enterprise reached a crescendo in 2017, when production houses of both China and India made a 90-minute long movie – Kung Fu Yoga – to explain to viewers that yoga is essentially esoteric magic, and that kung fu involves any hand action made while yelling “hyaaah”.

Kung Fu Yoga starts out with the most confusing 15 minutes of CGI ever seen on screen – a “battle” between the Tang and Magadha dynasties, which could have either been allies or enemies. One CGI Indian guy dies after the battle that no one seems to win, leaving behind a massive treasure on the way to China.

Present-day archaeologist and upholder of all that is kung fu, Jackie Chan, teams up with researcher/princess Asmita to find this lost treasure. They take a few apprentices along, go to a mountainside and set up base, where they drink Tibetan green tea, because Hindi-Chini bhai bhai.

We are then introduced to Sonu Sood, who plays your everyday Rajasthani prince named Randall (yes, Randall), just casually chilling on his horse, while his trained falcon eats another bird. Turns out Randall lives in a CGI zoo in Rajasthan somewhere and is evil because he has a plan to do something that he isn’t still clear about, but definitely involves a “treasure” of some kind.

When Jackie Chan is looking for his 1,400-year-old treasure on a mountainside just 10 minutes into the movie, he gets a chance to showcase Kung Fu Skill Number 1 – kung fu can scare the shit out of CGI wolves. After a few poorly choreographed moves on his apprentice boy, the wolves run in the opposite direction, and everybody is saved. Then, one awkward edit later, they have found the gold. Hurray!

Once Jackie Chan and his team get to the gold, they have a couple of minutes to rejoice and steal a mystical staff before they are confronted by Randall and his racially diverse goons.

But alas, to get to the gold, one would have to swim underwater for seven whole minutes. Perfect chance to showcase Yoga Skill Number 1 – yoga can help you breathe under water for up to eight minutes. Unfortunately Jackie Chan is not skilled enough to pull this feat off just yet, and has to get a crane to drill his way into the treasure cave.

Once Jackie Chan and his team get to the gold, they have a couple of minutes to rejoice and steal a mystical staff before they are confronted by Randall and his racially diverse goons. Randall wants the gold so bad that his goons start shooting the ice cave up. Thanks to Kung Fu Skill Number 2 – kung fu can prevent avalanches – the team survives and Randall escapes after tying Jackie and Co up.

Asmita has had very little to do up until this point, so the film directors thought it would be fitting to insert Yoga Skill Number 2 now in the story – yoga can be used to wiggle out of tight situations. Asmita pulls free from the rope, thanks to some quick editing, and everyone has been saved again.

Jackie and Co now need to swim out of this ice cave. Asmita is fully prepared to hold her breath for seven minutes since she is an Indian princess, and yoga originated in India. Duh! But Jackie is not so sure. After 10 seconds of being convinced to jump in about 10 minutes after he first heard about yoga, Jackie decides to take the plunge to great success. Yoga Skill Number 1 has saved the day!

And so, in just about half an hour, the combination of yoga and kung fu has helped find and retrieve an ancient treasure on a snowy mountainside with Sonu Sood and his bad guys on the trail.

The next hour or so throws in a few more stereotypes about Princess Asmita’s homeland (in modern India by the way), where “mystics” perform “great Indian rope tricks” and sadhus levitate in marketplaces. By this point the filmmakers have forgotten about their whole “yoga” angle, so they insert another unnecessary storyline and some need-for-speed-like graphics. They go see a camel race in Dubai and fight with hyenas in Sonu Sood’s house. #truestory

The stereotyping continues for a while until you realise that the cast is now looking for a completely different treasure. Once they find it, towards the end now, thankfully, the benefits of yoga and kung fu are brought back suddenly. Bad guy Sonu Sood who believes in neither, is crushed to defeat at a golden alter to Shiva by “knowledge”, “third eye” and a travelling band of racially diverse Hare Krishnas. The treasures are left unclaimed and the loopholes are left wide open.

But that’s okay. Because the moviemakers have just realised that their 90 minutes are up and that if they subject the viewers to anymore of this, there is a danger that they may poke their eyes out with very small screwdrivers. So the movie just ends with the entire crew doing an awkward kung fu-cum-Bollywood item number to display once and for all that Hindi-Chini will always be bhai bhai.

If records of Kung Fu Yoga are found by future generations, they will be convinced that both yoga and kung fu were some kind of a cult started by Jackie Chan and loveable assistant Asmita… and that this period in film-making history was characterised by some really brain dead, joyless audiences who paid real money to watch it. I know I will forever be judged for having been one of them. But run now and save yourself.

Sadly it’s too late for both kung fu and yoga.