Chhichhore is the sort of film that we can all add to, with our own versions of the same story -- a user-generated series, if you like. This has the makings of one.
A still from Chhichhore
U/A: Comedy, drama
Director: Nitesh Tiwari
Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Shraddha Kapoor, Varun Sharma
This film is literally all in its writing. Which isn't to suggest that the performers on screen — Sushant Singh Rajput, Shraddha Kapoor, Varun Sharma, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Naveen Polishetty (and the rest) — don't match up to the material. Oh, all of them do. They collectively shine, without doubt.
The film opens with them congregated at their college hostel, in the '90s. It's in the next scene — as Rajput's leading man manages/transforms to the present, as a modestly dressed, relatively lanky, bearded bloke, with salt-and-pepper hair, talking soft, looking naturally grim/mature — when it dawns on you that the character before us is very much Nitesh Tiwari, the director of this film, himself.
Besides his manner of speaking, that Rajput has also borrowed Tiwari's vocabulary is obvious, since the latter has also written the film. By all means, this is a semi-memoir.
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It's almost like the writer-director, at a living-room, is regaling you with anecdotes and blokes from his hostel life in an engineering campus. In fact, that's how this plot is also narrated in the film — to the lead character's son, who, along with the audience, is hearing all of this for the first time.
Should that be an issue (of the script being too specific, that is)? Hell, no; if you consider that the story being told is so deeply universal that I can't imagine anyone not instantly relating to it — whether or not they've even been to college at all! Surely we've all been through growing-up.
It's like the way Hangover, a pretty random flick in 2009, turned out to be the highest-grossing, R-rated (A-certified) comedy in movie history. Later, it became the highest-selling comedy DVD ever. Why?
There were essentially three men recollecting all that happened, one night when they stepped out and got seriously shit-faced. What do three drinking buddies usually do, when they meet, in life? Yup, recollect 'that' night, when... Similarly, what do friends from school/college inevitably do, when they hang out? Exactly.
They effortlessly become how old they were when they first met, and go, "Remember, this one time…." Doesn't matter which college you went to. There's no way you haven't met, among seniors or classmates, characters from this film, like Anni (Rajput), Derek (Bhasin), porn-addict Sexa (Sharma), Acid (Polishetty), Maya (Kapoor) et al, in some form or the other.
Chhichhore is the sort of film that we can all add to, with our own versions of the same story — a user-generated series, if you like. This has the makings of one. You've probably navigated the same rite of passage — from ragging to enrichment, through deep bonds/friendships that last forever.
Why's this unique? Because I can't recall any Hindi mainstream movie, in the colour of its language (first-rate dialogues), and the tone of its very being, that's managed to capture what it's actually like to be on an Indian campus — "freshy" (fresher), onwards. It is, in that sense, polar-opposite to the wilful dumbf***ery of, say, Student Of The Year (SOTY), that had as little to do with India as a campus. For its time, Mansoor Khan's Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (JJWS) might appear close to this, but more so for a similar 'joy of life'. Hip Hip Hurray (HHH) remains my under-rated favourite.
Speaking of which, one of Quentin Tarantino's gyan-full screenwriting tips is to fit a script into the frame of a genre. Without that, enjoying the "novelistic process", he says, he could keep writing a film forever — ending up with a seven-hour feature!
Chhichhore — a li'l like HHH, JJWS, SOTY — you must know, is a 'sports film'. It is set in what seems like the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). The friends/characters, as you know, age, through the script. Tiwari's last feature was the incredible, Aamir Khan blockbuster Dangal. Comparisons to the Rajkumari Hirani path-breaker, 3 Idiots (also starring Khan), is inevitable.
Here's the key difference though: 3 Idiots was all about screwing college; pursuing your dream. Which is all fine, and a point well-taken. Chhichhore, by the looks of it, argues that there is in fact far more to college than exam-scores, and education. It's actually outside the classroom that you derive most of life's precious lessons — among fellow travellers, equally insecure, on the same boat — learning to row as you go along, often laughing all the way.
And who are these that you're with, in this movie, anyway? Chhichhore (supposedly) — so beautifully placed in the '90s, strutting around in their Flying Machine/Newport type loose jeans, Casio watches, devouring Debonair/Playboy, scribbling with their Reynolds pens...
What does Chhichhore mean? Don't think this North Indian slang has a direct English translation. "Unhinged," is the closest I can come up with. Which is really what we all are, for that short span of adulthood, when our greatest concerns are beating the college/hostel/block/boy/girl-next-door, at basketball/chess/debate/quiz/crush (whatever that you were so into, that your whole existence depended on it). Being with friends, of course, mattered the most. And nature conspires to make that happen in ways that it doesn't ever thereafter.
I know — nostalgia's an exaggeration and all that. But this is the kind of writing/film that genuinely makes you want to relive — in this case, go back to college. Okay, think will just go back and watch this movie all over again, instead. Much easier!