13th November 2020

Chhalaang Review: It Is Hansal Mehta’s Feeblest Collaboration With Rajkummar

Chhalaang(Amazon Prime)

Starring  Rajkummar Rao ,Nushrratt Bharuccha, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub as Mr. Singh,Saurabh Shukla ,Ila Arun ,Satish Kaushik

Directed  by  Hansal Mehta

Rating: ** ½

The most complicated  part  of  this languid film  is the spelling of  the heroine’s name. Otherwise it’s all  very simple ,really.If a  sports teacher in a backwater town of Haryana is indolent and insolent , bring on a feisty  girl from the outside who when asked for a  date  retorts, ‘Daru  pilayega?’

This is  the writers Luv Ranjan,Aseem Arrora and  Zeishan Quadri’s  idea  of progressive womanhood. It gets  even more weird as  the  progressive elements ‘progress’ to  a deadend that comes  a good two hours after the  opening  gag where the  word  randwaa  for   widower is  supposed to simulate  humour.

At one point the above-mentioned daru-swigging  damsel  shares a drink with her future father-in-law(Satish Kaushik, aptly droll).Wah,  Haryana is the place to be  on  holiday from ‘dry’  Bihar.  Booze breaks notwithstanding, Chhalaang  means well . It ticks all the right  boxes in  the progressive-cinema genre  but fails to  come up with any moment that could compare  with  bright  soul-revelation   of Hansal Mehta’s Shahid or even City Lights.

The lights this times are seriously dimmed, although  being a sports film, most  of the narrative  unfurls in  the bright daylight with sweaty boys  and  girls  colliding over kabbadi and  basketball while the two sports coaches, played  by Rajkummar Rao and  Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub battle it out over who gets the prized trophy, the new girl in town, the same one  who likes her  drinks and is  played by an actress who spells her name with beguiling complexity.

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Mehta  whose films  have so far tackled tangled issues such as terrorism and homosexuality  is here treading on thin ice. The   plot is  puncfunctorily populated with trite uni-dimensional  characters who pretend to be  far  more complex  than they really are. The lines they speak are more daft than dense. But who is going to enlighten them  about their dimwittedness?

Even  the  resident gyan-giver played by the ever-reliable Sourabh Shukla, is so  self-important he asks the school principal(Ila Arun, never more listless)to do him a  favour because many years  ago, he had supported her, a woman,for  the principal’s part on the patriarchal educational system.Feminism survives by the scruff of  its neck.

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 The  characters , even the  younger  teenagers who  train for  the local tournament  , want to be  praised  all the  time. I remember Satyajit Ray once saying about Soumitra Chatterjee’s character in Charulata  that he was trying to be progressive to seem fashionable. Hansal’s characters  in this shallow shindig  on sports and other  timepass affairs also like posing as  progressive, although I am sure they  have no idea of Ray and Charulata.

The performances are without any  surprise. Rajkummar Rao is getting  a little repetitive. His cute puppylove  expressions  are common to both  his films this week, though far  less annoying in  Ludo. He needs to take  a  break from Hansal Mehta while Mehta needs to  end the  break from his  serious-toned films. Frivolity doesn’t suit him.

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