Little boys on the loose
Each boy in this gang of boys, or the “chillar party” in this film by Nitesh Tiwari and Vikas Bahl, has a quirk. One is a nerd and hence nicknamed Encyclopedia. Another is Silencer, and another, Panauti. They are children who live in the same apartment complex in Mumbai and are a bratty bunch. They lose in cricket every day against a better team of older boys in a neighbouring housing society and are constantly ridiculed by adults in the building.
The exposition in Chillar Party, when we are introduced to the gang, has promise. The writing has humour and the set-up is for an entertaining comedy.
Soon enough, a boy, Fatka, enters Chandan Nagar Society with his pet dog, a stray named Bheedu. Fatka is paid a pittance to wash the residents’ cars and lives in an abandoned blue car on the building premises. Fatka is a street tapori and the boys of the building are nasty to him. There’s camaraderie when the boys discover what Fatka is really good at—bowling at great speed, of course.
The story takes a melodramatic turn when a local politician announces a ruthless policy against street dogs. The boys, suddenly enraged, determined and unbelievably moral, declare war against adults who are unable to understand that Bheedu and Fatka should be together. The adults are unidimensionally evil and unsympathetic.
The first half has enough heart-warming moments for narrative propulsion. The boys are endearing and funny, and you begin to warm up to their little jokes and dilemmas, mostly involving cricket. Fatka’s introduction adds further momentum. The class divide between him and the resident gang is built up with humour and pathos.
I was particularly taken by a scene in which the boys lock the dog inside a car and Fatka runs around breathlessly looking for him. Bheedu is all Fatka has. The scene is sentimental, and stripped of irony—a classic tool to extract sympathy for the have-not. But it works, because of the way it has been written, filmed and performed.
The film’s casting is a success; all the actors are immersed in their roles and it’s only in a few scenes that it’s sorely evident that they’re trying all too hard to be children.
With the transformation of the boys into crusaders in the second half, the film plummets. The message becomes bigger than the children. Mumbai suddenly turns into a wonderland where thousands of children are marching in their chaddis as their helpless and shocked parents watch them on TV. An animated war of words between the “chillar party” and the menacingly cruel local politician, the villain, on television heightens the melodrama.
The only weakness of this film, and it’s a weakness that spells its doom, is the writers’ naive portrayal of childhood for an overwhelming emotional message. Children are survivors, they like things their way, and convenient. If Chillar Party had been treated as a fantasy tale, the story would have perhaps worked better with children, but it doesn’t with this garb of realism.
Barring a few enjoyable moments, Chillar Party does not have much going for it. Tiwari and Bahl do not intend it to be a film about childhood for adults, but even strictly as a children’s film, it is not a spectacular entertainer. It has heart, but poor writing makes the emotions burdensome.
Chillar Party released in theatres on Friday.
A sequel that kills
In the season of sequels, another one hits the screens this weekend. Except that ‘Murder 2’ is not exactly a sequel. Besides the name, there are few elements in common with the 2004 hit that made Mallika Sherawat a star.
One commonality is Emraan Hashmi. The second is murder; rather, several murders, as the villain in ‘Murder 2’ is a complex, ruthless, perverted serial killer. The baton for direction passes on to Mohit Suri, who takes a story by Mahesh Bhatt (seemingly inspired by the Korean film ‘The Chaser’) and an unoriginal screenplay by Shagufta Rafique to create a haunting suspense thriller. Unless you have seen the Korean original, it is hard to predict what horror lies around the corner.
The charmless Hashmi plays Goa racketeer Arjun, a former policeman who takes on any job that pays well. This time he has been hired by a pimp to investigate a curious case of missing prostitutes. While doing that Arjun has to also balance the expectations of his model companion, Priya (Jacqueline Fernandez), and battle against the police, which is not enthusiastic about his involvement in the case. But Arjun is determined to crack the case, and find not only the perpetrator but also his last teenage victim.
Hashmi brings nothing particular to the role except a bad hairstyle (a mullet in modern-day Goa?), while Fernandez looks adequately glamorous though her role requires fewer clothes than dialogues. The other performances are amateurish and the production values veer between Alfred Hitchcock and Ram Gopal Varma.
There are two positives in this thriller. The first is that Suri maintains a sharp pace to the proceedings, which never allows interest to flag, except in the latter half when he shows a long sequence of a drunk and troubled Priya. The director builds the suspense in some scenes so dramatically that you can feel your pulse racing. But perhaps the biggest reason to see this film is Prashant Narayanan. Kept out of the publicity to maintain an element of surprise, Narayanan is sinister, purely evil and magnificently deviant, raising the level of this film by several notches. With small movements of his facial muscles and his body language, he breathes life into one of the most menacing villains of contemporary Indian cinema.
‘Murder 2’ released in theatres on Friday.