CHHALAANG (2020)

Rajkummar Rao as Montu
  • Release Date: 13/11/2020
  • Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Nushrat Bharucha, Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, Saurabh Shukla, Jatin Sarna, Satish Kaushik
  • Director: Hansal Mehta

Rajkummar Rao and Hansal Mehta conjure up another film between them that is enjoyable, investing and funny

Montu (Rajkummar Rao) is the PT teacher of a small school in Haryana. His father, Satish Kaushik, is a lawyer in the same town and has never forced any responsibilities or restrictions on Montu resulting in him growing up to be someone who tucks tail and runs at the first sight of any real challenge in whatever he does. Things take an interesting turn when he starts falling in love with Neelu (Nushrat Bharucha) who is a computer teacher in the same school. Neelu likes Montu but that doesn’t stop her from calling out his fickle-minded attitude towards life and the issues that are plaguing his development due to it. Matters are further complicated when Montu’s position as the PT teacher of the school is threatened by the arrival of the more qualified, suave, and overwhelming PT teacher Singh (Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub) who not only challenges Montu for the position of the PT teacher of the school but also Neelu’s affection. What happens next forms the crux of the narrative of Chhalaang.

Chhalaang is unremarkable in its subject but is so well executed, acted, and has so much charm in its treatment that it leaves an indelible mark on its viewers. One of the first things that grasp your attention about the film is its characters. Montu is a flawed individual but is loveable and uproariously funny. We see a lack of urge to push forward in his attitude from the very beginning. He has some romantic notions about his marriage that seems to be the only major event of importance due to take place in his life. Montu’s best friend is Shukla (Saurabh Shukla), a person who is of his father’s age, a widower, and was his teacher in school. Shukla defends Montu like a true friend in everything that he does and is also one of the major detrimental influences on his life. He faithfully covers up for Montu’s lack of zeal and motivation to do something in life or at least do justice to his work as a PT teacher.

In a poignant scene, we learn from Montu that he has run away from a lot many things in his life every time he faced a challenge and that has evidently become one of the defining factors of his existence. Something that he is not proud of. However, his love for Neelu and the arrival of Singh pile upon him two major challenges that he cannot run away from unless he wants to lose his love and self-respect. Thus for the first time, we witness Montu stand up for what he loves and wants for himself. It is entertaining to see how resourceful he can be when he goes all out for what he desires with all his heart and might. Hansal Mehta is able to connect the audience with Montu’s predicament and that makes it interesting and investing for the audiences to see which way Montu’s story heads and whether or not he is able to succeed.

Nushrat Bharucha and Rajkummar Rao as Neelu and Montu

Through the child actors in the film who form Montu’s team in the climactic tussle against the much superior Singh’s team, Mehta tries to bring out some of the age-old issues plaguing our society like gender discrimination, unnecessary pressure on the children to perform, and the parent’s inability to accept anything that is outside the box and allow their wards to pursue those pastures. The film through Montu and Neelu’s quirky exchanges also brings out some of the misconceptions that the men of the country often grow up with. In a hilarious scene, Montu is shown assaulting Neelu’s parents in a park who he believes to be a couple violating the Indian culture by celebrating “Valentine’s Day”. It takes a beautiful Neelu and her oomph and charm to disarm Montu and make him realize his folly. This aspect of the men’s attitude is underlined by Neelu’s dialogue if anyone missed in the subtle presentation.

As is the case with Mehta’s films and series, even the minor characters like Montu’s friend Dimpy (Jatin Sarna), his father, Shukla, and the indomitable adversary, Singh assumes importance as the story progresses and they all have their parts to perform in order to make the story complete. None of the characters feel unnecessary or forced or for pushing just a plot point. On the contrary, I would have loved to see a little more of Satish Kaushik and Saurabh Shukla as the rendering of their respective characters are so sweet and grounded in realism. Nushrat Bharucha portrays a strong-willed Haryanvi girl and pulls it off for the most part. The only issue with her character is in its somewhat lackluster writing. I couldn’t understand why Neelu would fall for someone like Montu. It is something that is never explained in the narrative and we are asked to suspend our disbelief and accept it for what it is.

Rajkummar Rao generally reserves his best for Hansal Mehta and Chhalaang is no different. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that he carries the entire film on his shoulders (with able support from the ensemble cast). While Rao excels in the comedic portions, he comes into his own in the dramatic bits and the portion where we see him struggle for the attention of Neelu who he believes is slipping into the arms of Singh. These are the portions that contribute heavily to endearing his character to the audiences and contributes a lot in making the competition —-that would decide Montu’s fate — a more tense and exciting affair. I also loved how the film culminated. I was expecting a similar finale and I got exactly what I wanted out of it.

Rajkummar Rao, Hansal Mehta and Nushrat Bharucha in a still

Having said that, the film relates a story that has been told a million times over. The story has its limitations and develops in a manner that is predefined and all too well known. The screenplay, remaining within these limitations, still intrigues us with the rich characters and well-envisioned situations. However, there will be a lot of people who will definitely question its novelty. The fact that it has come out on prime videos may prove to be a good thing for the film as it is exactly the kind of content that one would like to enjoy on a lazy afternoon but might not venture out to watch on the big screen as it doesn’t exactly deserve a big-screen treatment. I had a good time with Chhalaang and I feel that anyone who is willing to accept it for what it is will enjoy this film. Rajkummar Rao’s spirited act, a great ensemble cast, and Hansal Mehta’s deft touches give the viewers all the reasons that they need to go for this film.

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars )

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