Novel Idea Fails to Save Poor Writing in ‘Ujda Chaman’
Chaman Kohli is in need of a bride! A Hindi lecturer by profession who stays with his parents and younger brother in Delhi’s Rajouri Garden, he religiously devotes his weekends to the pursuit of acquiring a wife. The only problem - his receding hairline that exposes him to unimaginable, often quite exaggerated ridicule at the hands of all prospective brides and their families! His students make fun of him, his friends pull his leg and even the pandit ji his parents take him to gives him just a year to get married or he would be doomed to a life of celibacy.
Chaman Kohli (Sunny Singh) understandably is desperate and as a man pushed to a frightening brink, tries every trick in the book to get hitched . Based on the Kannada film Ondu Motteya Kathe, director Abhishek Pathak delves into the subject of premature balding armed with humour - sometimes banal and at other times over the top.
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There are various things the film sets itself up to achieve. On the surface, Ujda Chaman is about a guy who is conscious about his bald patch, the most prominent feature of his personality. It also promises to explore what constitutes our physical attraction, how it’s undeniably linked to our outer appearance and what we are conditioned to believe is good looking and pretty. A bald man must be made fun of because only a fuller head is desirable. A hefty woman is an easy target because society only values thin petite versions of femininity.
For a 120 minutes long film, Ujda Chaman tragically feels longer. The first half is almost entirely dedicated to the various insults and embarrassments heaped on our hero. Nearing the climax, when the makers want to tie up the loose ends , the “message” is spelt out and appears to be a self conscious addition without subtlety or nuance.
However, Ujda Chaman wouldn’t be half as good if not for its supporting characters. Grisha Kapoor, Atul Kumar as Chaman’s parents- over the top Punjabis they might be but with the poise of consummate actors. Gagan Arora as the younger brother is a natural. Saurabh Shukla and Sharib Hashmi are welcome additions. And as for Sunny Singh - inspite of an underwritten part he manages to bring in the necessary emotional play off even though he has only a couple of stalk expressions to fall back on. Maanvi Gagroo is particularly brilliant as Apsara, a girl more in sync with her real self than Chaman can ever hope to be! She deserved a longer screen time.
For a film that questions society’s unhealthy obsession with unrealistic beauty standards and outward appearances, the insecurites people have about their looks and the impact it has on their life and those around them- it falls short both in its writing and understanding of human emotions. When Apsara talks of seeing Chaman ‘s “inner beauty” it almost seems like a compromise without a fight. As if not having a full head of hair or a few extra pounds disqualifies one from being sexually physically attractive and so the only line of argument worth mentioning is the abstract “inner beauty” concept .
Till the end Chaman and Apsara aren’t positioned as desirable but only as a couple that is a perfect match because in a way, both have something lacking in them.
A cop out and a meandering fumbling effort. 2.5 quints out of 5! Good intentions alone don’t make a great film.
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