A poster from <i>Chhalaang</i>.

Review: Chhalaang Has Merit, But Gets Reduced to a One-Time Watch

Chhalaang is directed by Hansal Mehta.

Movie Reviews
3 min read

Review: Chhalaang Has Merit, But Gets Reduced to a One-Time Watch

Monty, a PT teacher at a school in Haryana, couldn't care less about his job. Readily giving up his allotted period so other teachers can complete their syllabus, Monty (played by Rajkummar Rao) seems quite content with the little life has to offer. His closest friend is his former teacher and present colleague Shuklaji (Saurabh Shukla). And while Monty’s mother threatens to dig in her heels and get him married to the next girl they meet, he nurtures big dreams about romance and getting to know his partner before committing to marriage. But there are contradictions here too. Monty is also a proud member of the Sanskriti Dal, where these self appointed Sanskriti ke Rakshaks harass couples, old and young, on Valentine’s Day.

A still from <i>Chhalaang</i>.
A still from Chhalaang.

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As these conflicting traits sit uneasily, Monty's life goes for a little spin when a new computer teacher, Neelima (Nusshratt Bharuccha), joins his school. Just when things seem to be falling in place he is unceremoniously demoted and asked to assist a new coach. Enter a moustached and radiant Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub as MI Singh. Monty's bruised ego and the fear of losing the love of his life makes him wake up from his slumber. The new Monty wants to give up his habit of easily surrendering and sets out to coach a bunch of underdogs to win the sports competition in school, something that will secure him both his job and his girl.

Almost playing out like a coming-of-age story about a wastrel finding purpose in his life, the familiar sports film trajectory of cheering for the underdog and nervous moments leading to a nail-biting finish, even though formulaic, have an element of thrill to them.

The simple story with a familiar arc isn’t the problem here, but the simplistic storytelling is. Characters played by some brilliant actors exist only for the purpose of allowing the hero to display his many wares.

Take for instance the new coach Singh, a highly-qualified man who seems to know his job well. But we are never allowed to get to know him better. He is there only to help our hero display his heroism. Even the “love triangle “ is slightly forced since we never completely understand why Neelu, who holds a rightful grudge against Monty, would ever fall for him so readily.

Chhalaang comes alive in scenes when it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The astonishing ease with which consummate actors like Satish Kaushik (here in the role of Monty’s father) and Saurabh Shukla bring in an element of verisimilitude is entertaining to watch. Also spectacular are Rajesh Gupta in a small role as Nushrratt Bharuchha‘s onscreen father and Ila Arun as the school principal. Baljinder Kaur as Monty’s mother and Naman Jain as his brother are also authentic with their body language and accent. Every time they come on screen the film becomes richer and smarter.

It's great fun to watch the unorthodox techniques Rajkummar‘s Monty employs to coach his team. The good intentions propelled by some fine performances by Rajkummar and Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, Chhalaang has its moments and one doesn’t mind sitting through it even if we know exactly how it will end .

Rajkummar Rao, Nushrat Bharucha and Mohammed Zeeshan in <i>Chhalaang.</i>
Rajkummar Rao, Nushrat Bharucha and Mohammed Zeeshan in Chhalaang.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

But the stride for greatness that coach Monty pushes his students to work towards is a lesson Chhalaang should have followed. Hansal Mehta has tremendous grip on the narrative, but the material provided to him by writers Luv Ranjan, Aseem Arora and Zeeshan Quaidri use such broad strokes one feels like it’s happy and comfortable to settle for a middling performance. A one-time watch that could have been so much more.

Our rating: 2.5 Quints out of 5.

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