Synopsis – Following a group of friends from university as they progress into middle-age life and go their own separate ways.
My Take – It was always going to be a tough task to follow up a film like 2016’s Dangal, a film which went on receive record-breaking commercial success, by becoming the highest-grossing Indian film ever, the fifth highest grossing non-English film ever, and the highest-grossing sports film worldwide.
However, director Nitesh Tiwari seems clearly up for the task, as with this film he manages to pull on our most beloved emotion – college life nostalgia.
Settling into our routine life were our job and family time takes up our utmost attention, it just feels refreshing to sit down with a bunch of friends and reminisce on those crazy stories, where campus reputation and getting the girl, all the while having a good time was all that mattered. And that’s all this film does right from the start till the end, even though it is laced around a tragedy.
This is a film that will entertain you, make you laugh, recall your old memories and at last gives you a small but a long lasting message. While the emotional beats of the film’s narrative do share similarities with ‘3 Idiots’ and to some extend with the ‘Student of the Year’ films, but unlike the latter, it is much more grounded, with much better ensemble performance and some poignant revelations from its central characters.
Even though, for the most part, the film presents a black and white portrayal of its conflicts and characters, its immense heart and humor end up compensating for the flaw.
With films like ‘Chillar Party’, ‘Bhootnath Returns’, and ‘Dangal’ under his belt kitty, director Nitesh Tiwari has proven once again that when it comes to content driven cinema, with a well written script, wonders can happen.
The story follows Anirudh aka Anni (Sushant Singh Rajput) a middle-aged successful corporate employee, who finds himself at a crossroad when his teenage son, Raghav (Mohammad Samad), attempts suicide after failing to make it through the common entrance exams.
As his estranged wife, Maya (Shraddha Kapoor), blames him for inadvertently loading expectations, leading to Raghav’s immense pressure and ultimate terrible choice, Anni decides to dip into his bank of memories to motive him, rather than sit on the side and watch his son oscillate between life and death.
Looking for support, Anni calls upon his and Maya’s old college mates namely, the always horny Sexa alias Gurmeet Singh Dhillon (Varun Sharma), the chronic foul-mouthed Acid (Naveen Polishetty), the timid Mummy aka Sundar (Tushar Pandey), the alcoholic Bevda (Saharsh Kumar Shukla) and the chain-smoking Derek (Tahir Bhasin) also known as the unofficial daddy of this gang, to reunite and recount the story of their hostel life.
How through their experiences as the underdogs they tried to change the odds and shake off their label of losers, all in an attempt to convey important life lessons to Raghav.
Through the film, director Nitesh Tiwari deftly teleports the audience between the college life in the 90s, and the lives now. All the folks yearning for the nostalgia shall be looking for the handkerchiefs, as the film has portrayed the college life with absolute finesse. The well-crafted screenplay coupled with the finesse direction offers a sojourn to the audience to experience the hostel life filled with love, heart-breaks, epithets, accolades, adventures, and misadventures before drifting back to the tensed scenes at the hospital.
Here, director Tiwari also subverts the tropes of a college drama by setting the film in an IIT-style campus and yet not making it anything about academics. This very creative decision, and its stellar execution, shows us how he is critiquing India’s tragic education system by eliminating it from his story. It’s important as a backdrop but doesn’t always have to turn into a singular focus.
Instead, he anchors his plot in collegial emotional-bonding, sports, capturing youthful idealism and the pragmatic wisdom imbued along the way, inverting the narrative of what constitutes education. The film hits the right notes when it flashes back to the inter-hostel sporting competition and the camaraderie between the students.
Here, director Tiwari, who showed flair for sporting drama with Dangal, builds suspense and tension as we track the ups and downs of Hostel 4 inmates versus their arch nemesis Hostel 3, led by the abrasive Raggie (Pratiek Babbar). Even in the present life, the camaraderie between the friends does not look forced, as compared to some other films that have portrayed college life.
The film’s writers Tiwari, Nikhil Mehrotra and Piyush Gupta infuse the college scenes with energy, mischief, humor and cadence.
The film’s hilarious stretches arise from the quirks that we see in hostel life. Even there is laugh-out-loud scene involving these nicknames, where Gurmeet’s father comes to know about his son’s kinky title or the scene where they pass their hostel cook as a coach who throws food analogies is laugh-out-loud hilarious.
It’s just refreshing to see hostel life steeped in healthy competition and pranking and not defined by harrowing ragging. The film pulls no punches in displaying the hormonal, adult humor. The humor is also balanced by the drama of the present, which works on similar lines of ‘The last leaf’.
Although the director employs familiar characters, he, his production design ensures that the world they inhabit, of a post-pubescent youths going through the motions of transitioning from boys to men, is sprinkled with such rich details, none of it ever strikes as superfluous or overtly designed. The dirty canteen, the rickety hostel rooms, the stinky bathrooms, this world is a realistic window into college life before mobile phones, one where Gold Spot and Debonair magazines quenched thirsts of hormonal teens.
The best part about the film is that it’s entertaining, pleasant, and emotional without attempting to preach what it cannot teach. It reminds us that we have been creating a generation that is promised rewards for success but never taught how to handle a loss. It teaches us that often, success doesn’t teach you much; it’s the failure that nurtures to become a bouquet of accumulated experiences.
Though the film remains a delightful watch through its run time, it does contain a few flaws. Like the makeup for the ensemble cast as per the present day looked kind of absurd, and the sport competition in the climax, which just adds on to the already excessive run time. Unlike Dangal, which rested largely on the sport itself, this film didn’t quite need that and the many competitions get laborious to watch as one could foresee the outcome.
Nevertheless, the film boasts of a strong ensemble cast, who together, as a group of friends, share an easy camaraderie that’s easily relatable. Sushant Singh Rajput smoothly traverses both ages, and captures both the playfulness of a fresher as well as conveying the guilt and trauma of a father who realizes that he forgot to impart an important lesson. Shraddha Kapoor, despite a sketchy role, delivers a moving and likeable performance.
In supporting roles, Tahir Raj Bhasin portrays his role with plentiful charm and magnetism, Varun Sharma is superb in his comic timing, Naveen Polishetty is entertaining, Tushar Pandey adds an innocence to his character, and Saharsh Kumar Shukla portrays his role with precision.
In a smaller role, Prateik Babbar makes a comfortable return to the screen and Mohammad Samad continues to be a delight to watch. On the whole, ‘Chhichhore’ is an effortlessly crowd pleasing film with solid content and a relevant message.
Directed – Nitesh Tiwari
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 143 minutes