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.