A housewife in Kolkata suffers in silence as her husband starts an affair with a much younger woman. A young man visits his parents’ home in Kochi after his brother is killed at war. And a well-to-do Parsi boy in Mumbai must bury the ghosts of his past in order to face the future. Chaurahen, directed by Rajshree Ojha, is intended as a poignant drama about people struggling with important decisions that will enable them to move on with their lives. But weighed down by pretentious dialogue and wooden performances, the film leaves you cold, and indifferent towards its troubled characters.
Easily the most tiresome of the multiple tracks in the film involves a pair of young lovers (Ankur Khanna and Soha Ali Khan), who speak in clichés about some indecipherable conflict involving the young fellow’s attachment to his empty home and dead parents. The couple babbles on incoherently about everything from listening to Mozart under the moonlight, to a symbolic pair of dentures lying on a dressing table.
Only a little less baffling is the track in which a surgeon-cum-writer (Victor Banerjee) has a fling with a young bookstore employee (Kiera Chaplin), while his morose wife (Rupa Ganguly) grapples with grief over a missing daughter we never learn enough about. It’s hard not to chuckle at the film’s clunky lines, including this gem that the doctor delivers to his young girlfriend when he accidentally knocks over her lunch box: “For a skilful surgeon, I’ve done your sandwiches irreparable damage”.
However, there is some depth in that track involving a young writer (Tamil actor Karthik Kumar) who struggles with his father’s expectations of him after the unfortunate death of his brother. Sincerely performed by acting veterans Nedumudi Venu and Arundhati Nag, as well as Kumar, this episode is genuinely moving, aside from a bizarre flashback involving the deceased sibling (Shayan Munshi) and a mysterious older woman he meets in a bar (Zeenat Aman).
Director Rajshree Ojha assembles an impressive ensemble of actors, but sadly fails to play to their strengths. While the abundantly talented Rupa Ganguly is wasted in a thankless, mostly wordless role, the relatively raw Soha Ali Khan is entrusted with long passages of banal dialogue. The film ultimately doesn’t work because it’s amateurishly written, and because it doesn’t have the emotional heft to leave you stirred.
I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Chaurahen. For a film about characters at the crossroads of their lives, this one leaves you lost for directions.