Just one time (Reviews)

Friday, 6 September 2019

Language: Hindi 
Director: Nitesh Tiwari
Starring: Sushant Singh Rajput, Shraddha Kapoor, Varun Sharma and others
Showing at: Cinepolis, CityPride, E-Square Carnival, Inox, PVR and others
Rating: ***

As a those-were-the-days trip, Nitesh Tiwari’s Chhichhore has its moments of youthful exuberance — though the sight of a bunch of boys in their briefs running around with buckets throwing water at one another is not a pleasant sight. And you think, these are the bright sparks who were selected out of 10 lakh aspirants to attend India’s most prestigious engineering institution? How did these morons pass the stringent entrance exams?

The film is not about their struggles with academics, however, or fitting into an unfamiliar campus culture, or homesickness, but the hackneyed jocks vs nerds fight, that is about the bunch labelled ‘losers’ taking on the cool over-achieving dudes, represented by Raggie (Prateik Babbar). Nobody seems to be studying, and failed students stay on in the hostel forever!

Anniruddh ‘Anni’ Pathak (Sushant Singh Rajput) is dumped into Hostel 4 with the losers (who decides that before they have even settled in?). That lot is led by the perpetually horny, porn addict Sexa (Varun Sharma), and others with nicknames like Acid (Navin Polishetty), Derek (Tahir Raj Bhasin), Mummy (Tushar Pandey), Bevda (Saharsh Shukla). In the male-dominated environment, the only pretty girl is Maya (Shraddha Kapoor), the kind called Haley’s Comet, because they appear as infrequently.

Their interactions are frothy and laugh-out-loud, but they are interspersed with the heavy-handed preachy bits, about Anni and Maya’s teenage son, Raghav (Mohammad Samad) attempting suicide, because he failed the entrance exam to the same institution that his parents — now-divorced — are certain he would ace. Nobody teaches kids how to cope with failure, observes an anguished Anni.

Raghav lies in hospital in critical condition, the doctor (Shishir Sharma) keeps giving updates in grim tones (the hospital seems to have no other patients!), and says that the boy has lost his will to live. Anni gets the idea of summoning his old buddies — with whom he has lost touch because of his busy work life — to convince Raghav that fighting is more important than winning. The message is an important one, but delivered with that big sports tournament cliché, which takes up most of the second half.

Reminiscent of 3 Idiots (2009), the film celebrates friendship and the unbreakable bonds formed in college, that lead to Anni’s pals dropping whatever it is they are doing in different parts of the world, to be by Raghav’s side — though, which hospital would allow such crowding in the ICU?

It is left to the actors and their chemistry to help the film through its many saggy bits, and Varun Sharma turns out to be the scene-stealer, while Sushant Singh Rajput struggles with the schmaltz. All the actors look overage as students and not old enough when they are aged with prosthetics, but their skins remain untouched by time. Maya doesn’t age at all!

Chhicchore is entertaining enough for one watch, but lower those expectations from the writer-director of Dangal and writer of Bareilly Ki Barfi and Nil Battey Sannata.

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