Director: Hansal Mehta
Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Nushrratt Bharuccha
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
Hansal Mehta’s Chhalaang is a sports film. It’s a film set in a small town. However, it’s not particularly about small town youth’s ambitions or aspirations to achieve something big. The protagonist here is Mahinder Hooda aka Montu played by Rajkummar Rao. A middle class PTI from Haryana. In real life too Rao hails from Haryana. It’s literally and figuratively a ‘home pitch’ for him. He must have had it a little easier than others to get his act right.
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However, the real challenge for actors like Rajkummar and Ayushmann Khurrana these days is to make this small town guy interesting. Since these days most of the stories in Hindi cinema are set in small towns. And these two actors are poster boys of these ‘content driven’ films.
Frankly, for Rao, there’s not much to do here. Montu is an awkward, ambitionless PTI in a school. He in fact tells the kids to focus more on studies than wasting their lives playing sports. Montu meets a girl – Neelima (an affable Nushrratt Bharuccha), a computer teacher who joins the school. There’s a small back story to why there would be a friction between them. Will not spoil that for you here.
Montu wants to impress Neelima, fondly called Neelu – she says he can call her that. The writers give a twist to the usual meet-cute and the girl-playing-hard-to-get sequences. The chemistry between the two is playful. Montu finds a ‘purpose’ to strive hard in life after a trained PT Coach (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) becomes an obstacle in his professional and love life.
Writers Luv Ranjan, Aseem Arrora, Zeishan Quadri avoid the usual clichés of a sports film as well as the romantic and family tracks. The conflicts have easy resolutions. But, I guess, that’s how people are in real life. As opposed to what we get to see in sensationalized cinema; nowadays on news channels as well. But where Chhalaang falters is that it lacks the thrill to keep you hooked. For instance, Nitesh Tiwari’s brilliant Chhichhore (2019) was not overly sensationalized or a nail-biter but the treatment of sports and emotions kept you hooked till the end.
Watch the trailer of Chhalaang:
Chhalaang has an ensemble cast. Veterans Satish Kaushik, Ila Arun, Saurabh Shukla are delightful in their acts. Narrative flows nicely but there’s always something missing. The big setup and branded kits for the players in the competition sequences look a little unreal for a school competition. That too between two coaches to secure their job. And the fact that the school is looking for a grant from the government to improve their sports infrastructure.
Filmmakers often do massy-dramatization in films based on sports or an underdog achieving something extraordinary. Chhalaang spares you from that. And that’s a good thing. However, what it doesn’t give you is something to take away. Nothing stays with you after you’re done watching the film. Chhalaang takes a good leap but unfortunately falls marginally short.