Chhichhore Hindi Movie Review
Nostalgia from the college days is a prime topic for Bollywood filmmakers. It's a universal feeling that many sitting in the darkness of a movie theater can very easily relate to, whether they're recent graduates or their kids are on the verge of it. The only things in the depiction of college life that have changed are that "purani jeans aur guitar" have been replaced by "sutta" and sex.
Nitesh Tiwari's Chhichhore treads similar hollowed grounds, marrying the narrative and the social context of the much superior 3 Idiots with the inter-college sports competition of the much average Student of the Year, and the final result pretty much splits the difference between those 2 films: it's not going to crack many prestigious entrance exams but it's not going to die of hunger and poverty while lying drunk in a gutter either.
Quite like the other release of this week It: Chapter Two, Chhichhore tells the story of the Losers club (unofficial name) as they work their asses off to win the GC trophy, a sports competition that is the object of desire of everyone at the engineering university the film is set in. Throw in some romance, some tense drama and a bucketload of self-pleasure jokes, and you can pretty much understand the gist of the film without even watching it.
Contrary to my pre-release expectations, though, watching this new Tiwari sports dramedy isn't quite the worst filmgoing experience in recent times (last week's Saaho stands tall and proud in that regard). Similar to 3 Idiots, the story is told in 2 timelines, with the present narrating the past. The story of the past, with all the colorful entertainment and the tense sporting, is mostly a breezy watch. Again, the writers team (Tiwari, Piyush Gupta, Nikhil Malhotra) doesn't exactly tread freshly-laid ground here but this timeline so highly saturated with one-liners and gags that even when many of them fail, handful of them succeed by sheer strength of numbers.
Whether it's the introduction and mingling of the characters or the change of track from fun interplay to trophy winning, the writers go about it brazenly with full confidence that they have enough in the bank to win over even discerning audience members. And the infectious energy with which the cast commits to their characters wins a major battle for Tiwari, even if his direction is at times predictable for the lack of trying.
The narrative, however, loses a lot of steam every time Tiwari intercuts the college timeline with the present, in which Sushant Singh Rajput's son is facing some dire obstacles of his own. While Rajkumar Hirani and Abhijat Joshi's writing covered the inherent gimmicky weakness of this second timeline by putting in that much extra effort and creativity to make their film an all-rounder, Tiwari's team of writers lag behind by cutting corners and shrugging off this flaw as something audiences today have to accept if they also want the gifts.
So, every time the writers transition from the past to the present to connect the events at a moral teaching level, the film's graph drops instantly. The entire cast in old-age prosthetics is a novelty that wore off during the film's trailers itself and there's not much else apart from rephrasing the messages Hirani preached in his film to keep this second storyline going. If maybe Tiwari hadn't tried to use the son as the instigating element for the flashbacks from the beginning itself, then the present day storyline would not have been stretched thin to this extent and the pacing wouldn't have been this uneven.
The film's cast does smoothen over some of the cracks in the behind-the-camera work by translating Tiwari's obvious passion for his college days into actual charm and camaraderie that wins you over. Sushant Singh Rajput struggles with his prosthetics and wigs as an old man but he's an able anchor during the older timeline. He brings a boyish grin to everything from college pranks to nervous romance, and even if it does border on being one-note, he pulls through well by the end. Shradhha Kapoor gets the least screentime out of the principal cast but she's genuine and sweet enough in her small role, a massive improvement over her horror showing in last week's Saaho. Varun Sharma shamelessly chomps on every filthy joke he's given to mouth and he does so with an affection that's hard to resist. Naveen Pollishetty's Acid and Tushar Pandey's Mummy are two scene-stealers whose characters don't get much emotional development but they do get some of the better gags of the film. Tahir Raj Bhasin provides good stoic support in the midst of all the goofiness.
By the time the GC Competition's finals roll in, almost anyone sitting in the audience can tell what the lesson to be imparted is. But not many could deny that this journey to the finals wasn't a fun, if uneven, ride. With a bit more attention to the writing, this film could've differentiated itself from the crowd with its game cast and setting. Presently, it makes for a good one time watch but not much more.