After Shahid, CityLights, Aligarh, and Omerta, director Hansal Mehta and actor Rajkummar Rao reunite for their fifth film together. This duo has given us some mind-blowing films in the past, which have been more social and political in nature. Their latest film Chhalaang, however, is a sports drama with elements of comedy. While Rajkummar has frequently dabbled in this genre, Mehta returns to comedy after 18 years. His attempt is not half bad as he salvages a weak script with the help of some brilliant actors. Chhalaang tries to make a point but ultimately deviates from its message in favor of plain old Bollywood drama.
The story revolves around a regular Haryanvi incel called Mahinder aka Monty (Rajkummar Rao) who is content in his mediocre life. He is a PT instructor at a local school, where he does not take his job too seriously. Instead, he prefers to while his time with Shuklaji (Saurabh Shukla) the now-retired ex-principal of the school and Dimpy (Jatin Sarna), the local confectioner. We see the softer side to Monty after Neelima aka Neelu (Nushrat Bharucha) joins the school as a computer teacher and Monty falls in love. They start off on the wrong foot and Monty resolves to win her affection by being a better person and teacher. Just when he decides to turn his life around, Singh (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) joins the school as the new PTI, putting Monty’s career and love life in jeopardy. The rivalry between the two professors intensifies and Monty decides to finally show some spine…and some discipline. With competition to prove himself as the better teacher, he finally decides to get serious and make a difference in the lives of his students.
Nushrat Bharucha is the surprise element
From the trailer, it seemed like this movie would be all about Monty and Singh’s rivalry. But while this forms the main plot of the film, Chhalaang is mainly about Monty finding his purpose in life. This kickstarts with the entrance of Neelu, who fills Monty with aspirations to be a better man. They are a sweet jodi, with Neelu being a formidable force to Monty’s overconfident juvenility. Nushrat Bharucha also makes an ideal partner to Rajkummar Rao, who is known to be a scene-stealer. While he has the best of dialogues to his disposal, which the actor expresses confidently and with style, Bharucha holds her own grounds and is in every way a co-lead rather than just being portrayed as a love interest.
The supporting cast is superb
While the three leads – Rajkummar Rao, Nushrat Bharucha, and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub – are superb in their roles, it is the supporting cast of the film that will have you in hoots. Saurabh Shukla as Monty’s equally whimsical role model is the funny one, delivering his dialogues with a tone of ridicule. Satish Kaushik and Baljinder Kaur as Monty’s parents are the most desi parents you’ll ever meet and you can relate to the madness in the Hooda household. Even Jatin Sarna and Ila Arun as the principal make an impact in their limited screen time. It is Ayyub here who is really robbed off the opportunity to perform to his best abilities.
The film breaks away from its point
Chhalaang aims to create awareness about the impact of sports education in a student’s curriculum. But instead of showing a balance between academics and sports, Chhalaang’s story keeps the students out of the classrooms and on the playgrounds at all times. This fails to convey the basic message that students must develop both their intellectual and athletic capabilities, ultimately falling into the trap of misplaced priorities. The film also loses track of its message, focusing mainly on Monty’s revenge rather than his upliftment.
WATCH OR NOT:
Chhalaang makes for a decent one-time watch with the family. Don’t expect a remarkable film, as Hansal Mehta and Rajkummar’s earlier collaborations have been but set no expectations and you just might enjoy the film for its entertainment factor. If you like sports films, Chhalaang has a fantastic training montage that trumps anything else Bollywood has done before.