I don’t know how to analyze Chhichhore. I have seldom been appalled to this degree after watching a film. This year has churned out great disappointments as far as Hindi cinema is concerned and Chhhichhore is not merely an addition to it but probably surpasses all the films in terms of mediocrity, ineptness, insensitivity, and casualness. It is rather shocking to even consider that films like these are still being made, after more than 100 years of Hindi cinema.
A critical analysis calls for precise dissection of the film. Chhichhore falls in the bracket of films based on student competitions. It can’t be called a sports drama because its central focus doesn’t reside in sports but few students playing sports for the honor. This has never been a meaty plot, in my opinion, for the entire plot remains predictable and every thrill-inducing or tear-jerking event comes out contrived. You’re subjected to see everything you know. But since most of us have experienced the rush of competition, the sorrows of a loss, and the pride of a victory at some point in our life, we tend to derive a sense of nostalgia from films such as these which makes them an entertaining affair. Chhichhore seems to be questioning orthodox notions of victory and raises an important issue of the current times but does so in a manner which does more harm than good.
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A group of college friends gets together in a very unexpected manner following an unfortunate event. The friends recollect and retell the story of their younghood and we get to experience two sets of stories running in parallel. A strong aversion to the film is established before it could unfold itself due to the extremely lousy makeup work which has been done to the actors. The idea of old age for the director is semi-baldness and essential hair loss as every character is made to appear like that. This cinematic instrument to represent the dawn of old age comes out extremely unrealistic for the age bracket in which our characters fall does not cause hair loss mandatorily. After all, the chhichhoreys are in their 40s only. One could have overlooked this blunder had the other elements of makeup been strong. You can easily see the enlargement of the skull due to the prosthetics applied along with the unreal beards which have been costumed on the faces. The entire skin comes out flawless like that of a young adult to the point where the beard is sticking. From that point onwards, you see an artificial salt and pepper beard sticking to the face. And to the faces where there’s no beard, the hair and mustache appear to be soo black as if they’ve been freshly dyed.
The female lead of the film, on the contrary, appears to have not aged even a second and there has only been a costume and hairstyle change, from skirts, frocks, and trousers to sarees and suits and from short length perms to long tresses, respectively. The elasticity and tan of the skin are absolutely the same. It may be deliberately employed to establish the idea that “bhabhi ji aaj bhi demand mein hain” (the female lead is still wanted for her beauty, even after nearly two decades) rooting from the fact that she hasn’t changed a bit but this type of superficiality isn’t expected from someone such as Nitesh Tiwari.
I may sound to be nitpicking at this point but every other lousy element aggregates to a mammoth blunder this film is. One of the fundamental tools of cinema has been the suspension of disbelief but Chhichhore never allows you to suspend yours. The actors neither look old or sound old. The lethargy is evident in the acting job as well.
Also by Nitesh Tiwari: Dangal (2016)
Most of the actors don’t do their part convincingly, especially the protagonist. Sushant Singh Rajput has probably given the most atrocious performance of his career. One that was unexpected and shocking in equal measures. Shraddha Kapoor, who is almost all the time panned for her acting, looks far more interesting in her act. You don’t play old by applying certain mannerisms if you mind is not in sync with your body. Sushant sits with his legs crossed, fidgets with the belt strap of his trousers, adjusts it continuously as if its an ill fit, shivers his voice while speaking, breaks into cries during conversations and cries with his face digging his chest, speaks on the face and suddenly turns it in the other direction to cry and then turns back again to speak the part unsaid and turns to cry again. This exercise doesn’t cease for the entire screentime of old Sushant. His neck appears to be in constant physical training for flexibility and tests the flexibility you can allow to the flaws of this film which could and must have been avoided.
Varun Sharma isn’t the most irritating element of Chhichhore. Rather, he comes out fine and does what he does best. Tahir Raj Bhasin is convincing for his character. Naveen Polishetty, on the other hand, hasn’t evolved much as his character seems to be an extension of his stints in web media. For those who have seen Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya would know that Naveen doesn’t lack potential. Prateek Babbar is subjected to a template portrayal. Shraddha surprises with her part and does what she was required to do without stumbling. Saharsh Kumar Shukla is not given much screentime to be fairly judged but he excites with this small contribution. Same can be said about Tushar Pandey and Shishir Sharma.
The screenplay is drenched with inaccurate and insensitive episodes. In one sequence of Cricket selections, our chhichhoreys find a bowler who bowls with a great pace but throws in a diagonal path away from the pitch. Anni (Sushant) stands at an angle from the pitch and asks the bowler to look at him and bowl. In the next moment of closeup to the bowler’s face, and obviously in slow motion, the person is shown to be esotropic. And it is his esotropia that prevents him from bowling straight, implying the person can’t look straight. “Saala dekhta kahin aur hai aur daalta kahin aur hai”. Audience laughs. I am no one to suggest a moral high ground but to my senses, it is vile of a person to portray a condition in such an incorrect fashion that derives pleasure from mockery. But the vile approach is extended.
At the cost of spoiling a predictable narrative, chhichhoreys realize their ineptness in sports they’re playing to win the annual cup and resort to foul tactics such as causing a distraction to the opponents during the events and making Maya (Shraddha) call them overnight for sensuous conversations so that they are deprived of proper rest before their matches. I don’t deny the existence of these things during championships but what is boastful about that? Is this the path through which one rises to honor for which all the efforts were targeted in the film?
The lesson gets dissolved in the approach adopted to impart it as a contradiction arises in what is being preached and what is being practiced. The pace of the film is slow and the screenplay is stretched unnecessarily, especially the climax. It’s surprising to see that these beaten-to-death tropes are still expected by the makers to bring the audience to the edge of their seats. They don’t, anymore.
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However, all is not ugly in this mess. The editing job is potent and it’s exciting to see coinciding incidents at the junction of the narratives. The choreography of the song sequences is one of the fine things about this film. They’re enjoyable for as long as they last. The songs are beautiful but not memorable enough to bring back home. The issue which Chhichhore touches at its surface is an alarming one and requires greater and more mature representation. Chhichhore doesn’t earn any brownie points for the same since they’re not the first movers in this arena.
If I count the number of times I smiled, it would be thrice. Three good moments lasting for a second or two in the entire course of the film that runs for 143 minutes. I personally consider it a heavy opportunity cost. But Chhichhore must be watched to learn how not to make a film.