Movie Review: ‘Chhalaang’ (Amazon Prime)

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As with many film releases of late, Hansal Mehta directed ‘Chhalaang’ was also one to head down the digital route, on Amazon Prime. Starring Rajkummar Rao and Nushrratt Bharuccha in the lead roles, the first trailer promised an entertaining film which featured some popular themes such as sport and, of course, competition – which go hand-in-hand in most films even in world cinema. However, does it really deliver in wholesome entertainment?

When sport becomes a compulsory subject at the school he’s PT Teacher at, Montu (Rao) becomes sidelined in favour of Singh Sir (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) who is a graduate in a sports subject. Not only does Singh come in and take over the classes, he also seems to have his eye on Neelima (Bharuccha) who Rao has a soft spot for. The male egos get the better of the two men and a competition is set up between students that they need to train. Whose training and teaching style will set up their team for the win?

Mehta seems to have his stamp completely on this film. You only need to recall the ‘Aligarh’ (2015), ‘Simran’ (2017 or even ‘Omerta’ (2018) that his focus on emotions and the unsaid, so to speak, is something that never fails to make a mark. In ‘Chhalaang’, this is no different, also beneath the surface a little. As a viewer, you identify with pretty much each character and the actions they take, which is a huge plus in a film which boasts ensemble cast talent such as Saurabh Shukla, Satish Kaushik and Ila Arun.

Rao as Montu and Bharuccha as Neelima are great in their respective roles, not unexpectedly so. They manage to create a decent chemistry between them and have some interesting scenes which seem a little incomplete when you look at the film as a full feature. Their performances individually show strength in their characters and this is, once again, something Mehta is known for somewhat in some if not all of his directorials. Arun as the headteacher is a great addition to the cast but her impact in the role is lost a little. The same can be said about Kaushik and Shukla. Jatin Sarna comes in as a welcome addition too, in a different role to what he’s known for. The child artistes are applauseworthy too. It’s perhaps Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub as Singh who shines the most in this film though, coming in and somewhat stealing the thunder from them all.

What lets the film down is that it lacks that X factor, for want of a better phrase. If you watch it, you’ll realise that it’s a standard film which has an interesting enough plot, decent characters and even a plot which engages you… just about. However, as a full product, it all feels rather mediocre. The scenes which should have had the most impact are where Manto is forced to try and identify how he feels about teaching by Neelima and where Montu’s father tells the twosome not to lose hope and keep fighting. However, even these aren’t standout that much that you feel you are connecting to the narrative. The competition element which happens throughout the second half is entertaining and tugging at heartstrings but not so much that you feel involved as with many other sports films. The build-up may not have been adequate or perhaps it all felt a little rushed. It’s difficult to put one’s finger on.

This is one to watch if you want an entertaining enough film which you’ll watch once. You’ll definitely be struck by the performances (especially Ayyub’s), if nothing else. However, if you are looking for anything out of the box then you sadly won’t find it here and that, unfortunately, is why this one is probably perfect for an OTT release.

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