“Chhichhore”… Some mild amusement cannot redeem a slapdash bunch of friendship clichés

Posted on September 12, 2019

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All the A-for-apple screenplay wants to do is comfort us with clichés — say, the fact that friends you have lost touch with over the years will drop everything and land up the minute you reach out to them, even if they are in faraway lands.

Spoilers ahead…

Nitesh Tiwari’s Chhichhore feels like a drawing-board version of 3 Idiots, as though its script was assembled from the crumpled balls of paper Rajkumar Hirani and team tossed on the floor while brainstorming for their blockbuster. I’m no great fan of that movie, but this one’s worse. I couldn’t even get past the awful framing device of a teen (named Raghav) who attempts suicide because he fails to clear the JEE. (With the clumsy staging, you see the suicide attempt coming from a mile away.) So the boy’s father calls his college friends and makes them tell the boy tales that show how they were losers too, and that they masturbated a lot, and also cheated in sports and hardly attended class (apart from the stray library visit), and so “all izz well” if you don’t crack the exams right away, because there is always a next time.

No one doubts the immense value of this message, and of masturbation — though I certainly would have winced if my father and his friends gathered around me, joshing around with memories like, “Chhote nawab ke saath guftagoo karta hai?” I liked how this boy (played by Mohammad Samad, an appealing presence) was written. I felt for him. I liked how comfortable he was with his parents’ divorce. But the character is the cinematic equivalent of a bucket. He just exists so that the screenplay can be poured into him. I don’t want to get nostalgic about how films like Anand and Mili handled life lessons and the fact that a life was ebbing away. Or maybe I want to, if only to point out the classy way those screenplays were constructed. Chhichhore looks like someone had an idea for a film and decided that was enough.

It’s not about the jerk-off jokes, some of which are very funny. (And henceforth, I pity anyone nicknamed Bunty.) It’s about the writing, which has no texture. It’s just a bunch of “events” strung together. Sushant Singh Rajput (in an annoyingly fussy performance) and Shraddha Kapoor play Raghav’s parents. She keeps sniping at him, but we don’t get a real idea about why they grew apart. These are the things that differentiate stick figures from characters. But all the A-for-apple screenplay wants to do is comfort us with clichés — say, the fact that friends you have lost touch with over the years will drop everything (their family, their work) and land up by your boy’s bedside the minute you reach out to them, even if they are in faraway lands. It’s not because that’s what these characters would do. It’s because that’s what “friends” do.

We never get to know these characters (played by genial actors like Varun Sharma, Naveen Polishetty and Tushar Pandey) beyond a single trait. We don’t feel the closeness we did in Dil Chahta Hai. We know they are friends because the screenplay (aided by a syrupy score) tells us they are friends, with Rajendra Kumar-era lines like: Aise kaam mein busy kya ho gaye ki doston ko bhool gaye… These aren’t just friends. They are (wait for it) “family“. We know this not because we sense this sentiment but because there’s actually a line that says “these aren’t just friends, they are family”. The second half morphs into a series of sports events, with a Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar flavour. Some of the slapstick made me laugh. But I was more amused by the doctor who pops out periodically, in the present-day portions, and keeps making grave pronouncements about Raghav’s health. Heck doc, like there’s any doubt about the boy’s fate. He’s listening to all these stories about masturbation. Of course, he will rise.

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Posted in: Cinema: Hindi