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‘Chhichhore’ review: Noble thoughts, trite humour

Back and forth: The flashbacks take place at awkward moments

Back and forth: The flashbacks take place at awkward moments  

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An attempt to normalise failure is lost in anachronistic gags and disjointed narrative

It’s no secret that Bollywood loves to romanticise college years. Those days of youthful complacency, crude jokes about sex and masturbation, first love, cultural or sports competition that mean the world to you, barely attending lectures and confiding in alcoholism. They are often projected as the best years of one’s lives, eulogised in slow-motion montages of laughter, hugging and pranks. Nitesh Tiwari’s Chhichhore has Arijit Singh’s ‘Woh Din’, where the filmmaker uses the same style to evoke nostalgia and capture the ‘good old days’. From Karan Johar’s campus sagas (Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Student of the Year franchise) to Rajkumar Hirani’s 3 Idiots, contemporary Hindi films have also looked at college days in hindsight, when one has aged (not necessarily matured) and settled into their professional and family lives. Tiwari’s film explores a similar time, where the characters look into the past to find comfort in the present.

In Chhichhore, the central characters Annirudh (Sushant Singh Rajput) and Maya (Shraddha Kapoor) are compelled to relive their college days when their son attempts to end his life after failing an entrance exam. The stories of the past are meant to evoke nostalgia and establish the importance of failure. It’s all well-intentioned and imperative in the competitive times (complete with a sagging job market and doddering economy) we live in. But the film works with all possible clichés and stereotypes that have been explored and exploited aplenty already. The classic engineering college humour, which revolves around masturbation, porn magazines, ragging and testosterone-filled jibes like “behen se jeeta tha ya haarta tha (were you defeated by your sister?)” are stale and ineffective, more so when interspersed with melodrama.

Chhichhore
  • Director: Nitesh Tiwari
  • Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Shraddha Kapoor, Varun Sharma, Prateik Babbar, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Naveen Polishetty, Tushar Pandey, Nalneesh Neel
  • Storyline: Annirudha and Maya reconnect with their college mates when their son attempts to end his life

It’s a commendable idea to contradict the present (where the characters are surrounding a dying child in an ICU) with the past (where the same characters are obsessed with a college championship), to establish failure as a capitalist and industrialised concept. What may seem the most important to you in the moment, the film insists, is actually inconsequential in the long run. An antithesis of Tiwari’s previous outing, Dangal, which hailed victory, Chhichhore normalises failure, by deceptively using the traditional build-up of underdogs-who-win narrative. The thoughts are noble and humour is an apt carrier to communicate it. But Chhichhore’s humour (besides being anachronistic and stale) is unable to salvage a long-winding narrative that cramps in morals, melodrama and ‘observational’ humour. Besides Kapoor, the film has no women of consequence, which is justified as a reality in engineering college hostels. Fair enough. But the lack of women also reflects the brand of (teenage boy) humour one can expect. There are a few one-line descriptions (mostly delivered by Varun Sharma), which evoke laughter but the gags are clumsily executed. The ‘punch’ (even in physical comedy) is either too late, predictable or hackneyed. To make it worse, the flashbacks take place at awkward moments, switching rapidly between lighted-heartedness and melodrama.

 

This back-and-forth narrative rests heavily on change of costume, facial appearance and body language. It’s amusing to see what age does to some characters (like a timid nerd acquires an American accent). Actors like Tahir Raj Bhasin, Naveen Polishetty, Tushar Pandey and Saharsh Kumar Shukla are on point as various peculiar personalities. But the characters in themselves rarely deviate from the stereotypes we have seen aplenty. So Chhichhore can either be enjoyed as a regurgitation of jokes, stories and characters (much like how we repeat our college stories for the hundredth time at a party) or demand to be surprised, even in the realm of nostalgia. I vote for the latter.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 10:15:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/chhichhore-review-noble-thoughts-trite-humour/article29359947.ece

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