There is something ageless about college friendships. Quite often, they last for a lifetime. Films about campus camaraderie quite often refer back to Raj Kumar Hirani’s overrated 3 Idiots. Sure enough, Chhichhore will remind you of Rajkumar Hirani’s over-age students (Aamir Khan was well into his 40s) and their infantile pranks.
Besides, the unsimulated authentic emotions the most credible part of this incredibly sincere film is the casting. Other than Sushant Singh Rajput, who tends to overdo it a bit—why must he ACT in every frame? – the rest of the actors playing campus buddies are so true to the script you feel you have known them at some point in your early life. Specially, remarkable are Naveen Polishetty as the foul-tongued Acid and Tahir Raj Bhasin as the enigmatic Derek. These two actors exude an irrepressible energy. Pratik Babbar too is impressive in an under-developed inconsistent role.
To his credit, Sushant allows Varun Sharma to corner some of the best lines. Sharma’s Sexaa, so named for his obsession with the feelings in one part of the body (hint: Playboy, Debonair) is an entertaining character, and one that is played with glint-eyed enthusiasm. Shraddha Kapoor as the campus beauty is adequate in her youthful zest but unconvincing as a middle-aged mother and her fractured relationship with Sushant seems highly laboured.
Having said this, Chhichhore never gets tedious, as the simple straightforward unassuming tale of seven college friends who gather in their middle-age during the time of a crisis, unfolds with tenderness and care.
The film leaves behind a feeling of tremendous nostalgia and bonhomie. Much credit for the unflagging spirit of the even-tempered saga must go to Charushree Roy’s editing. The pastiche of past and present is created in a zigzagging design that is held together with threads of warmth and empathy.
Indeed, the narrative’s back and forth movement never allows itself to get invasive. Somehow, we feel, not the weight of time but what Milan Kundera called the unbearable lightness of being.
Which brings us to the film’s prosthetic transformation of the protagonists from youth to middle-age. Some of the actors make the leap well. Others look uncomfortable. Luckily for us, the film’s profoundly moving statement on what makes a life more valuable and precious than the process of winning and losing, lingers in loops of nostalgia and retrospection.
Nitesh Tiwary’s direction is constantly uncluttered and unassuming. He lets the characters grow through their giggles and their grief. He never tampers with his characters unnecessarily letting them breathe on their own volition. Amalendu Chowdhary’s camera is never judgmental. It is always an indulgent smiling tear-eyed ally.
Boys will be boys. Even when they are bald and not so beautiful any longer.
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