Chameli Hindi Movie Review

Feature Film
Jan 7, 2004 By IANS

There are a lot of reasons why Chameli should be seen. But there are a few why it can be avoided. First, Kareena Kapoor fails to do justice to her role as a streetwalker. Not because she isn't given the right script or because she hasn't been directed well - but because she has too much class to pass off as one coming from a small town or a broken home.

That she is a survivor is clear, but the point is she doesn't come across as one who has suffered - at all! The audience is aware that she is 'Kareena Kapoor' and not a hooker who picks up her clients without qualms and practiced ease. In other words, Kareena Kapoor tries to draw you in as Chameli but without much success.

Secondly, strange that it should turn out to be the one night when everyone who has anything to do with Chameli's life descends on them to interact with her or look for her. A nice way to introduce cameos and then do away with them - except that if they are going to influence Chameli's life, later in the night - they need to leave an impact.

Better actors could have been chosen. With the exceptions of Satyajit Sharma who plays a small-time cop out on his hafta vasooli trip and Yashpal Sharma who plays ACP Singh out to save Chameli's skin in the end - all fail to leave an impression.

That apart, there are compelling reasons as to why Chameli should be seen at least once. For one, the film doesn't romanticize a whore's character. She is a prostitute with a golden heart but she certainly ain't looking for sympathy or making a hullabaloo about not wanting to be where she is at the moment.

She is available for whoever wants her, she is comfortable with the world she inhabits and the issue has been resolved in her mind. So she's got what it takes to hook and she will flaunt it. Period. But Kareena fails to fit the bill. She is too 'plastic', too well-groomed to fit the character.

Mishra has managed to avoid falling into the trap of making her a tragic figure a.k.a Umrao Jaan and Pakeezah. Chameli has had a rotten childhood but that is a thing of the past and her present is of more concern to everyone - including the investment banker (Rahul Bose) who she meets in a chance encounter at the Flora Fountain, Mumbai, after his car has broken down on him. But as his chosen heroine for the night ... (am afraid) she fails to evoke desired response - either in him or in the audience!

Bose (who has come a long, long way from that embarrassment called, A Mouthful of Sky) is a perfect foil to Chameli as Aman Kapoor. In fact, he goes through the film without dialogue! Virtually! Compared to Chameli's chatter, Kapoor revels in his tortured silence.

But silence isn't the easiest of postures to maintain on a big screen. In today's times (when films thrive on noise, action, song and ear-splitting violence), silence is a precious commodity and rarely accommodated. It leaves an actor with body language, attitude and facial expression. If he can pull that off, he's arrived. Bose manages to do that. He doesn't have to point a gun at Chameli's tormentor in order to let the latter know, that he's there - for her.

Another reason why Chameli definitely needs to be seen on big screen is for its music. Sandesh Shandilya has not only understood the nuances of the script, he captures the varying moods through the night. Especially look out for the peppy beats of Bhaage re mann and the soft lilting tones of Bheegi hui shaam.

Don't miss either Aseem Bajaj's cinematography, which emphasizes the softly lit arches of the Flora Fountain that lend Chameli its earthy, grounded tones, its shadows which reveal more than they hide.

Chameli is a film that definitely deserves to be seen but not for the reason that its being marketed for!