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Chhichhore review: Nitesh Tiwari’s masterpiece is hilariously profound and overwhelming!

In Chhichhore, there’s less gyaan; more fun and emotion. Nitesh Tiwari’s masterpiece is hilariously profound and overwhelming.

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Chhichhore movie review

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It begins with a dunk fight at the hostel, started by Sexa (Varun Sharma) and Anni (Sushant Singh Rajput). All the boys of the hostel in their undies are throwing water over each other. Cut to years later when Anni is a mid-forty mature, grim father of a son. I wondered whether it is a version of Nitesh Tiwari (film’s writer-director) himself? It is known that this film is a semi-memoir of Tiwari’s college life. The film is being narrated to the audience as well as to Anni’s son by Anni and his college friends Sexa, Derek (Tahir Raj Bhasin), Acid (Naveen Polishetty), Mummy (Tushar Pandey), and Maya (Shraddha Kapoor).

The film finely shifts between 90s and present day, often between similar situations and dialogues in both times. Too much, too literal? Not at all. From Mansoor Khan’s Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar to the fantasy-world Student of The Year, Bollywood has produced many films like this. But Chhichhore is unique for its masterful storytelling. I can’t recollect a Bollywood movie managing to pull off A-grade dialogues describing ‘dirty’ things, putting across the point without being on-the-face, and not getting sloppy even for one scene.

Chhichhore is all in its writing (Nitesh Tiwari, Nikhil Mehrotra, and Piyush Gupta). And all the actors do a splendid job performing the written material. You can easily relate with the film/characters. Because whether or not you have gone to college, an Engineering one for that matter, you must have grown up with people like these. Film’s comparison to Rajkumar Hirani’s hugely popular 3 Idiots is inevitable. But Chhichhore surpasses it. While 3 Idiots was about teaching the education system a lesson and following your dreams, Chhichhore shows that there’s much more to college than just records and marks and achievements – sans the massy dramatisation.

Watch the Chhichhore trailer here:

Anybody who has watched the climax of Dangal, knows how well Nitesh Tiwari can show sports sequences. The climax of Chhichhore does not disappoint either. Bollywood filmmakers often exaggerate in order to make a point. But Tiwari and his co-writers and editor keep things natural, subtle and easy going. The ‘losers’ as the friends have been called in the hostel, haven’t achieved anything great in their lives. But that’s how real life is.

Probably that’s what the makers have aimed to show here. They succeed in keeping it close-knit around the college that happens outside the classrooms. Strangers meeting, giving each other tough time, later becoming friends for life. If you think of it, that’s what matters eventually.

Notable mentions in terms of acting performances: Varun Sharma as Sexa delivers a delightful performance. He delivers the film’s best punchlines. Sushant Singh Rajput as Anni, is earnest. His portrayal of the middle-aged version of his character is more convincing than the younger one. Shraddha Kapoor, Tahir Raj Bhasin, and Naveen Polishetty do a fine job too.

Hindi films are not known for being study material for use of colour, sound, editing and background score in the cinephiles’ world. But Chhichhore can become one of the firsts. Director Nitesh Tiwari has beautifully created the world of 90s. Everything flows naturally and smoothly. There’s less gyaan; more fun and emotion. It is hilariously profound. I’m not a big sucker for nostalgia but this film makes you want to reflect on the college life. This masterpiece by Nitesh Tiwari left me overwhelmed.

Movie Reviews

Bulbbul review: A visual spectacle let down by thin writing

Bulbbul on Netflix is a horror revenge drama film produced by Anushka Sharma and stars Tripti Dimri as an enigmatic woman in early the 1900s in Bengal Presidency.

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Tripti Dimri in and as Bulbbul

Director: Anvita Dutt

Cast: Tripti Dimri, Avinash Tiwary, Rahul Bose, Paoli Dam, Parambrata Chattopadhyay

Rating:

When after watching a film, you talk about the cinematography, production design, colors or music more than the film’s story, it’s an indication that the storyteller has lost his/her audience. Netflix India’s latest original film Bulbbul unfortunately falls into this category. The opening credit sequence with red flowers is captivating enough to raise the expectations from the film. You’re blown away by the visual spectacle that writer-director Anvita Dutt has created with her team – cinematographer Siddharth Diwan, production designer Meenal Agarwal, costume designer Veera Kapur Ee and the VFX department at Red Chillies.

The film is a celebration of colors – red hues symbolizing anger, celebration, menstruation and above all womanhood, stark blue representing the grim past. Adding to this visual spectacle is Amit Trivedi’s hauntingly beautiful score, dominated by violin. It’s a great combination of audio-visual storytelling. What hurts Bulbbul is its writing. Writer-director Anvita Dutt has tremendous command over the language, and the dialogues have a literary touch (no surprise as it is set in Tagore’s Bengal), but the overall narrative lacks novelty and doesn’t have much impact either.

Trailer of Bulbbul:

The characters played by Rahul Bose, Avinash Tiwary, Paoli Dam become one tone and standard template for films like this. What stays with you is Bulbbul portrayed by Tripti Dimri (such a beautiful enigma). She gives Bulbbul her vulnerability and grace with ease. Her eyes and smile do half her work. She seems so synonymous with the red hues in visuals and the violins in score.

The story begins in 1881 when Bulbbul, a child bride is married to a much older man Indraneel (Rahul Bose). He has a twin brother Mahendra who doesn’t have a conscience. Their third brother is Satya, played with complete sincerity by Avinash Tiwary. Dimri and Tiwary reunite after their debut film Laila Majnu (2018), a story of unrequited love. Here too their relationship of brother and sister in law has shades of belonging. Satya is Bulbbul’s friend, confidante as both are of the same age. They are writing a book together. The book as well as their friendship comes to an abrupt end when Satya is sent to London to study law.

Also read: Aarya review: A thoroughly enjoyable crime drama

Satya returns after five years, to know that a chudail (she-demon) is killing men of the village. This story is about women, and the abuse and suppression they have faced since beginning time. Men ought to be the villains of this narrative. But there’s a mandatory ‘not all men are bad’ type character in Sudeep (Parambrata Chattopadhyay). The men in the film have a standard template. Rahul Bose, Avinash Tiwary do their best but there’s not much for them to play.

In spite of its visual splendor, Bulbbul falters in its narrative and ends up in the same situation where most horror films do. It would have been great to see a tale of revenge in a novel way but unfortunately, nothing great happens after the promising start. The film at times, moves at a meandering pace, which can be repellent to a film on OTT, as the viewer can quickly switch onto something else.

Also read: Rasbhari on Amazon Prime Video review: A scattered tale with no Ras

Bulbbul is produced by Anushka Sharma and Karnesh Ssharma’s Clean Slate FIlmz. In their first production NH10, Anushka seeks revenge from her husband’s killers. Their next two projects Phillauri and Pari were ghost folklore and supernatural thrillers. Bulbbul is a combination of all three. To sum it up, there’s a lot to marvel in the visual splendor and musical genius of Bulbbul, but the thin writing lets the film down.

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Movie Reviews

Aarya review: A thoroughly enjoyable crime drama

Disney + Hotstar’s latest special Aarya starring Sushmita Sen is an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable crime drama.

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aarya

Creator: Ram Madhvani

Cast: Sushmita Sen, Chandrachur Singh, Sikander Kher

Rating:

It starts with Aarya played effortlessly by Sushmita Sen hurrying up some morning household chores, getting her kid to school, managing to keep a tap on her younger sister’s wedding arrangements, and preventing her husband from having ‘just one laddoo’ as his triglycerides levels have gone high. This sequence as are other sequences in the series involving multiple characters is beautifully choreographed.

Ram Madhvani (Neerja), the creator of the show, along with his writer-directors is in no hurry to make this series compact. At 9 episodes, approximately 50 minutes each, Aarya unfolds slowly. If you assume that this is a crime thriller which such series get easily categorized into, Aarya might seem long and slow. That’s what people label anything that doesn’t move in quick cuts across multiple locations and plot twists.

Watch trailer of Disney + Hotstar Specials’ Aarya:

Aarya is an official Indian adaptation of the Dutch series Penoza. To me, Aarya came as a big relief from the overdose of crime thrillers on the OTT space. It does involve crime for it is set in the world of drug mafias. But it is as much about a woman, a daughter, a mother, and a wife. Interpersonal relationships have been woven so beautifully that the slow burn feel of the series is its asset.

Madhvani and his co-directors have got remarkable performances from their actors. Remember Sonam Kapoor in Madhvani’s Neerja (2016)? It is the only performance of the actress that stands out in her entire filmography.

Also read: Rasbhari on Amazon Prime Video review: A scattered tale with no Ras

Here, Madhvani has an ensemble cast that gives excellent performances. Leading the pack is of course Sushmita Sen. This is her show and she owns it. She portrays Aarya with poise. When her world turns upside down, she takes it head on like a fierce lioness protecting her cubs. Chandrachur Singh (also making a comeback) as her husband has his own charm. Vikas Kumar as ACP Khan, Ankur Bhatia as Sangram, Namit Das as Jawahar, Sikander Kher as Daulat, and Manish Chaudhary as Shekhawat leave their mark.

The series is remarkably cinematic in its production design, costume design, cinematography, sound and background score. The writing is organic. There’s not much dialogue-baazi in it. Yes, it is possible to keep the audience engaged by letting the characters converse than trying to dramatize every scene with filmy one-liners. There’s a lot to marvel at Aarya – the woman and the series.

Also read: Gulabo Sitabo is an ‘antique’ dramedy that owes its charm to its eccentric characters

Aarya might not be a binge watch for everyone. I took my time watching an episode a day. But I thoroughly enjoyed the series. The slow burn allowed me to get transformed to crazy rich drug world in Rajasthan and the world of Aarya. It gave me that time to absorb everything without having to be on my toes all the time trying to guess what’s gonna happen next. I liked that for a change. You might too.

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Movie Reviews

Rasbhari on Amazon Prime Video review: A scattered tale with no Ras

Amazon Prime Video’s latest Indian web series Rasbhari starring Swara Bhasker takes too long to make a point and falls all over the place while doing so.

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Swara Bhasker and Ayushmaan Saxena in Amazon Prime Video's Rasbhari

Director: Nikhil Bhat

Cast: Swara Bhasker, Ayushmaan Saxena, Rashmi Agdekar

Rating:

Nostalgia, a teenage boy’s sexual fantasies/awakening, small-town setting can be a good combination to put together a film or a show in today’s times. India’s youth have struggled hard to express their sexuality; often leading to perversions and sex crimes. Where boys with the so-called freedom that they have had got than the girls hasn’t really helped them becoming more mature or responsible romantic/sexual partners. Women still struggle to express their sexuality for the society they live in hasn’t really encouraged rather allowed them to do so.

Amazon Prime Video’s latest web series Rasbhari tries with good intentions to address this issue. Swara Bhasker plays Shanoo Bansal aka Rasbhari a seductress, sexually charged woman who is every man’s fantasy in Meerut – from school students and teachers to paanwala, cable guy and cop. Men lust over her whereas their wives call Shanoo a ‘kulta’.

Watch the trailer of Rasbhari:

One of the males lusting over Shanoo is her student Nand Kishore Tyagi (Ayushmaan Saxena), who boasts among his friends that he will score with Shanoo. There’s innocence and foolish craze in a teenage boy’s fantasies about a mature woman. For many boys, their first crushes have been their teachers. The makers here, writer Shantanu Srivastava and director Nikhi Bhat take too long to establish the setting and characters. Frankly, there’s nothing much that they reveal about either. First four episodes test your patience after which the story starts moving.

The writer tries to give the sub-text. For example, Nand offers Shanoo soan-papdi (an Indian sweet) to which she says, you should ask someone what they like instead of assuming it. Assumptions indeed lead up to f**k ups. It’s a subtle way of telling men about seeking consent before sex. Don’t know how many understood that metaphor. Sub texts like these are few and inconsistent. The whole narrative is. At times, it feels as if they’re trying to say too many things, which is fine as a series is where you can actually try it out, but it is so disoriented that you have to try hard to focus.

Also read: Gulabo Sitabo is an ‘antique’ dramedy that owes its charm to its eccentric characters

The series does produce a few laughs, most of them coming from the cuss words that the school friends use for each other. That’s the most organic thing in the series. Everything else looks forcefully stuffed. The cardboard characters don’t have many layers or depth. You know pretty much how everyone is going to react in a situation. Swara Bhasker as Shanoo and Rasbhari is inconsistent throughout and fails to make an impact in a series where there’s no competition for her. She is Rasbhari and it’s her series. Ayushmaan Saxena as Nand Kishore and Rashmi Agdekar as his romantic interest Priyanka do slightly better.

There is for sure a good intent to tell an erotic tale from a woman’s perspective. Although, a guy is a narrator of this one. But Rasbhari could have been more compact and impactful to make a strong statement. What could have been a fun 2-hour feature film is stretched to about four hours of series divided into eight episodes. Thus, Rasbhari becomes a scattered tale with no Ras.

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