Chamatkar came at a time when Bollywood, every now and then, made a harmless, sweet and fluffy entertainer that could be watched by the whole family and enjoyed at varied levels. Not only does it have a simplistic yet amusing story, it executes the otherwise implausible premise with childlike simplicity and ease that makes it so endearing that you forget to notice the flaws. Chamatkar was essentially a remake of “The Heavenly Kid” released in 1985. However, this film was Indianized to such an extent that it’s almost impossible to relate it to its original.
Sundar (Shah Rukh Khan) is an innocent village simpleton who is conned into coming to Mumbai by a friend of his. Once in Mumbai, he is robbed of all his belongings and money. Forced to spend a night at the graveyard, he has a chance encounter with a ghost named Marco (Naseeruddin Shah) who has been in a limbo for 20 years. Marco was a criminal who tried to turn a new leaf after falling in love but was betrayed and murdered by his own henchmen led by the nefarious Kunta (Tinnu Anand). Through Sundar, he gets his chance at redemption for which he has been waiting for 20 years.
Sundar also has no other option but to associate with him as he is alone, without money and knee deep in debt. As the film progresses, we see how the two bond together to set right Marco’s wrong doings as also save a college from the evil intention’s of Kunta. The film weaves in a love story too between Sundar and Mala (Urmila Matondkar), the daughter of Marco who he never got to meet in his life. If that was not enough there is also a heavy dose of comedy which reaches a pinnacle during a climatic cricket match on which the future of the college hinges.
I recently re-watched this film on YouTube and realized that even after so many years this film has aged very well. The biggest credit for that has to go to the two leading men, Shah Rukh Khan and Naseeruddin Shah. They share an extremely gullible chemistry which not only goes on to make their characters believable but also helps us to have a really good time. We are so transfixed by their acts that we very easily pardon the poor visual effects which were subpar even by the 1990s standards. The comedy that they are able to exude is genuine and affecting. The very first meeting between the two sets up the mood for the rest of the film.
Sundar is a down on luck and scared individual who stammers more than he talks. But in Marco’s company, he begins to get confident. The arc of the character is well demonstrated when in the climax of the film, he is the one to tell Marco to do something to the villains who are holding them at gunpoint. In the rest of the film, Marco is always the more pro-active one. Shah Rukh Khan beautifully brings out the different facets of the character through his subtle act.
Naseeruddin Shah is perfect as Marco. I cannot imagine anyone else playing Marco other than him. He had the perfect balance in his act between his good and evil sides. While in the initial sequences you take him to be the villain that he is playing, post his meeting with Sundar, he becomes a loveable and endearing character. There are loads of subtle nudges here and there that go a long way into making his character real and enjoyable. Shah is a class act and he brings his A-game to the table even in this out and out commercial role.
Chamatkar has nothing cinematically poetic about it. There is no high drama. There are no Oscar-worthy performances. What it has is a healthy dose of entertainment and loveable characters that never cease to amuse you. Chamatkar is one of my favorite films from the 90s primarily because of its re-watchable and simplicity. I can watch it a 100 times over and I know for sure that I will not be bored of it.
Rating : 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)