This Is Not My ‘Chhalang’ Back Into Movie Reviews

Disclaimer: Spoiler alert! This post consists of lame commentary over scenes and story from Chhalang. Also, this post was written while wearing an N95, so at least it is virus-free. Upto 95%.

The ongoing pandemic has proved to be a challenge for cinephiles. Now that is a term that I used to associate myself with till my undergrad days (I’m talking about the word cinephile, not pandemic) because every friday afternoon I could be found at Delite Cinema near my college skipping a lecture and devouring multiple samosas in the name of lunch. But ever since I actually started feeling like a working professional, I’ve cut down usual movie-going frequency significantly from ‘if it has released, I must watch it’ to ‘if my wife and I have a common free weekend’.

The thought behind cutting down on movies was that with increasingly limited free time off work, I’d develop a certain taste in movies, rather than giving a chance to every movie, even the ones starrung Hurman S Baweja or Tusshar Kapoor. It’s almost been seven years since that decision, and I admit that I still fall for movie marketing gimmicks and item numbers because of uninhibited attraction towards wasting 2 hours of my life, and XY chromosomes, respectively.

The above two reasons are the only explanations for why I would risk watching ‘Chhalang‘, a movie so poorly executed that they are promoting it in the name of ‘it has its heart in the right place’. Even Kuchh Kuchh Hota Hai had ‘its heart in the right place’ while giving the social message of “if you’re as cute as SRK, you get to lay with both leading women at different times during the film without your character being called an asshole”.

I tried my best to enjoy Chhalang, which was hard to do while trying to figure out which Haryanvi-South Delhi crossover dialect the actress (Nushrratt Bharuccha, or whatever her Numerologist has suggested this week) was trying to speak. Also, because the movie is about two alpha-male characters who try to train an utterly mismatched team while having an even bigger gap in their own techniques only for the underdog to win at the last game. How? Because Bollywood.

The movie takes 40 minutes to come to the main storyline after enacting multiple WhatsApp forwards in the guise of comic gags, and in case those fail, there is also Deepak Srna with the most vital role of the movie to make people go “Oh ye to Sacred Games wala Bunty hai”, and then spend the entire movie clapping for Rajkummar Rao.

Yet, not everything in the movie was a negative for me. I have taken my own share of lessons from it:

1. Rajkummar was superb as a coach, especially during Basketball match where he kept guiding his players technically by repeatedly saying “Aage chal aur pass kar”, with an intent and result similar to how I guide a Manchester-based football club while sitting in New Delhi.

2. Other gems from the ‘Genius script for noob Coaches’ were repeatedly shouting “Focus rakhna hai” to distract the kids every five minutes and the golden words “Aaram se” which is undoubtedly the worst advise to a runner before a relay race.

3. If you want to make a movie based in Haryana, the characters must be limited to Chautala, Hooda or Gehlot. Almost all of them must display some violent streak.

4. In case you fear that the audience may forget that it is a sports movie, there must always be a random bunch of kids playing some games in the backdrop of Every. Single. Scene.

5. An ingenious way to train 10-year olds to run fast is by letting vicious dogs chase them during practice, and later trigger their PTSD using loud barks during the final race. It is totally acceptable if you have declared “No animals were hurt during the making of this movie” at the start.

At 2 hours 16 minutes, the movie seemed long, yet not longer than the couture-perfect heels/pumps/wedges that Nushrratt wore for her role as a secondary school teacher in semi-urban Haryana. Ok. Enough pokes at the movie that I, subjectively, didn’t like. There are two lessons that I learnt from this motivational sports movie: 1. You will always prevail if you persevere enough and have a strong will, and 2. The winning throw in basketball will ALWAYS touch the board and the ring in slow-motion twice before going in.

But in life, remember that before you take that shot, you must aage chalo aur pass karo the ball. Aaram se.

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This ‘Healthy Eating’ Post Is Brought To You By The Association Of Fried Foods

Lockdown has been a tough time for almost all of us. Especially tough on the self-proclaimed ‘foodies’ who, as we now know, almost everyone is. You’d have to be a medically certified anorexic to not like that adjective. Yet, the worst time with respect to food habits that anyone has had during the lockdown must be the ‘I only eat healthy food’ brigade.

How can you tell that a person eats only healthy food, you ask? Answer: He/She will tell you within 10 minutes of your first conversation. Seriously! If you thought gym-freaks were horrible, wait till you meet one of these specimens. There are levels to being a part of this cohort. It starts with innocent salad eating, and ends at satan-worshipping practices like putting raw eggs into their smoothies.

If you make a mistake of mentioning a food-item that you like, but which does not feature in their list of ‘healthy foods’ (a list limited to 1. Salad, and 2. Other bland things that look like Salad), they will offer you a healthier alternative. Someone needs to tell them, in clear but calm and humble words, that HEALTHY AND TASTY ARE TWO MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE THINGS. Almost all healthy items that they suggest need to be coated with chocolate or fried with cornflour to be made palatable. Or they are simply swallowed whole, which is how people have tolerated ayurvedic supplements for so long.

The result of a few rampant ‘food fads’ is that a few girls have become so thin, that on meeting them you feel like offering them something to eat or at least an IV drip with a pint of dextrose solution. If you think only the weight-conscious women are gullible, then you are wrong. Guys are equally possessive about their protein powder jars. There is constant debate about health risks that these supplements pose, and there is a counter-argument doing rounds that you just need to buy your supplements from a better place, like a pharmacy store. It’s not different from saying that your STD is better because you got it from Amsterdam on someone’s bachelor’s trip.

I’m just kidding. I know little about protein supplements as they are limited to use by people who can actually lift something heavier than their college backpack. I did taste it once. It was (as I was told) unflavored, and the only taste I can equate it to is powdered cowdung. Not that I’ve ever had powdered cowdung. That is one Patanjali product I’d never try. Still, I’d give the healthy-food brigade some credit for at least sticking to the postulates of civilization, unlike…

… pretentious douches who absolutely massacre the very idea of food. They are around you everywhere. They can be found at the Subway restaurant messing up their salad by asking for liberal amounts of every single garnish dip that Subway has to offer. They’re also sat next to your table in your school or college canteen, treating every food item as a mere carrier service for unimaginable amounts of tomato ketchup.

Then there are those who swear by ‘authenticity’ of things. There is nothing wrong in calling ‘momos’ as ‘momos’. Calling them dumplings or wontons only means that you had it at a place with a roof and were charged exorbitant amount of money just for choosing them out of a printed menu card instead of simply saying “Bhaiya do jagah half plate veg momos laga dena” at your local stall.

I’m sorry if the above sounded like a rant. Having crossed the magical (pronounced as p-a-n-i-c/i-n-d-u-c-i-n-g) mark of 30, I am looking towards healthier lifestyle options myself. It’s just that with my Punjabi genetic make-up, I’m programmed to feel that overnight oats should be discontinued as a legitimate breakfast option, and everything tastes better when it is fried. Except protein supplements. And powdered cowdung.

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Have PPE, Will Dance. Is That OK?

I have no qualms in accepting that I check Instagram frequently for two reasons same as everyone: to see memes repeatedly posted by multiple pages till they become unfunny in general, and to ogle at Bigg Boss celebrities’ accounts because, you know, that clickbait Dainik Jagran article had ‘sparked my interest’ (mostly academic interest).

It is only bad habits like these that make me stumble across videos doing rounds on Instagram where some of my medical brethren are dancing, and I have to admit, rather impeccably, in PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). A disclaimer first: I’m not saying that I’m vehemently opposed to what the videos show or reflect. These are tough times, and if masochistic acts of dancing in a plastic-lined sweat-filled suit with your mask’s metal strip eating into your nasal bridge is what keeps your morale up, then you have my unconditional support.

Yet, I’d ask you to pardon me for not being an optimist about the impact of such antics. I’m just another sceptic and a frankly stupid one at that. Until about 4 months ago, I had a notion that demand of PPE vastly superceded the supply. Also, only 3 videos back, I had an opinion that it was very difficult to do our job in a hot, sweaty, uncomfortable PPE. About 40 minutes ago, I was of the opinion that I should keep my unimportant opinions to myself. Now, all of it seems to have changed.

PPEs are now manufactured in India and not exclusively imported from Beijing or Dhaka or wherever it is that PPEs and other industrial scale fashion-wear used to come from. That means they are relatively easily available, in cost and in quantity that makes it OK for us to wear one and give a performance. A performance that will get featured on viral-content websites that stress upon the fact that every such video that they share “will make my day” or “all the positive vibe I need”.

Let me be clear, I’m not jealous. About 16 years ago, I used to be an energetic dancer who could copy the latest Hrithik steps with aplomb while looking like a stick-thin Rajasthani carnival puppet. A PPE would have helped me prevent exposing my virtual X-ray physique and my ‘unsuitable for a quick airport check-in’ skin tone. Yet, I have noticed a few, err… issues, in these videos.

If you’re going to do it, at least do it the correct way. Take your PPE and rip it at places around the knee area and then post the video on TikTok or TakaTak or whatever time-wasting cellular routine has the government approval these days. A detailed caption could also help. But the caption must be around the words “the following dance routine was performed by the healthcare worker during his own non-working hours, without wasting a PPE”. Captions like “happiness is a choice”, “happy girls are the prettiest” and “I woke up like this” are senseless under any post.

Such videos don’t bode well for healthcare PR activities, either. I do acknowledge the need of taking the common people’s mind off the negativity surrounding this pandemic. It’s easy to achieve that by doing things that will have absolutely zero impact on Covid status of a patient. But please! That’s (perhaps) the (only) job of the government. Let them do it. Perhaps the only logical explanation many people saw behind dance routines was the possible thought of ‘Ooh. I’m sure this will go viral’.

These videos kind of take away our leverage in any protest. We can’t mock Taali-thaali and diya-torch if we are going to use dance as a medium to express our anger. It only works if you are Ananya Pandey in Student Of The Year 2. God help us if someone from WHO makes these entertaining dance routines a standard of care or worse, enlists them as a part of a clinical trial.

In my opinion, a dance routine in PPE is justified only if it is a Roadies task, or one is taking part in a themed performance in Dance Dilshad Garden Dance episode in a post Covid era. But that’s my opinion. Probably I am jealous, as these dance videos will have millions of views where as this rant of mine will have less than 10. It makes me angry. I’ll go and vent it out by dancing like Ananya Pandey in SOTY 2.


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