Chhichhore review: Nitesh Tiwari’s losers teach the true value of life

The film needed a more taut screenplay, more robust performances, but Sushant Singh Rajput and his fellow losers wins hearts for their sincere efforts

Rating: 3/5

Saharsh Kumar Shukla (l), Naveen Polishetty, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Sushant Singh Rajput, Shraddha Kapoor, Varun Sharma, Tushar Pandey (r).

By Mayur Lookhar

When medicines fail, it’s only faith, prayers that can perhaps save the dying.  Director Nitesh Tiwari doesn’t rely on faith but pins his hope on a story in the hope of creating a miracle.  A far fetched idea in an ideal world, but an acceptable one in fiction, if told in a believable way.

Anirudh Pathak [Sushant Singh Rajput] and his estranged partner Maya [Shraddha Kapoor] are left devasted after their only son [Mohammad Samad] Raghav jumps off a high rise unable to cope with his failure to clear the Joint Entrance Examination for admission to top engineering institutes in India.  Before he jumped off his friend’s apartment, Raghav moaned how he would be labelled a loser all his life.  What Raghav didn’t know though was that his father and his college mates were once labelled losers too.

It’s not just prayers, but Anirudh reckons a miracle could happen if somehow his boy is able to listen to his inspirational story. Remarkably, the boy gains consciousness in the first story telling.  The vagaries of life have seen them drift apart but after learning of Raghav’s plight, Anriudh’s collage mates turn up to tell the full story of the losers from hostel 4.

Nitesh Tiwari enjoyed his finest hour with the mammoth success of Dangal [2016] – the biography of Mahavir Singh Phogat and his grappler daughters, Geeta and Babita.   That was a sports film based on the father -daughter relationship.  Sports forms an integral and large part of Chhichhore, but Tiwari and his losers teach us the value of life, that’s more important than any success or failure.

College reunion rekindled memories of Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots (2009), but audiences will resonate more with Khan’s Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikander [1992]. 

Tiwari’s story begins in 1992 when Anirudh steps into his college’s infamous hostel number 4, that’s developed a reputation for housing all losers.  Anirudh wants a change but soon realises that his senior aren’t all too bad.  His best mate is Gurmeet Singh Dhillon [Varun Sharma], popularly known as Sexa, the most notorious college pervert.  Then there’s the foul mouthed Acid [Naveen Polishetty].  The trio is then joined by the simpleton, cry baby Sundar aka Mummy [Tushar Pandey],  Bevda [Saharsh Kumar Shukla],  the drunkard and Derek [Tahir Raj Bhasin]. Polishetty and Shukla are simply known by their college nicknames – Acid and Bevda.  

Labelled as losers for always finishing last in the annual college sports competition,   Anirudh and Derek vow to put a strong fight from H4 this time. It’s this sports competition that draws parallel with Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikander.  In that film, Aamir Khan competed for his cyclist brother Ratanlal Sharma [Mamik] who was nearly killed by his rival Shekhar Malhotra [Deepak Tijor] and is unable to participate in the annual college cycling competition.  In Chhichhore , Anirudh narrates the annual sports championship story to motivate his severely wounded son.

Is this story telling to heal the wounded believable?  May be it is but Tiwari goes overboard in the past with the prime focus perhaps shifting more to the sports drama than Raghav’s plight. The first half is rather dreary and it’s only the competitive sporting action and the H4 students’ mischievous strategies in the second half where the film truly comes alive.

Raghav surely was being treated in a suite in a posh city hospital that allows so many visitors by his bed side.  It would have been more appropriate to have the reunion at Anirudh’s place with the friends reminiscing their good old days with Raghav sitting besides them on a wheel chair.

It’s a miracle if a human being fell from a high rise and survived. However, most of his body would be broken. The severe brain injury often requires a patient to be put into a induced coma, but Tiwari and his writers Piyush Gupta and Nikhil Malhotra bypass that reality.  Often such cases require time to heal, but miraculously Raghav gains consciousness upon hearing the first chapter in his father’s college life. Thereafter, he hits you like a curious cat all ears to the tale of the Chhichhores.  This excitement on Raghavs’s face is a little fetched as patients with severe brain and body injuries take time to heal and converse.  The film though never claims that the story telling is working miracles. Raghav’s surgeon [played by Shishir Sharma] timely gives us updates on the critical condition of his patient.

What is condemnable though is when Anirudh terms the ragging by his seniors as unharmful.  This reviewer has never been ragged nor stayed in a hostel, but ragging, harmful or not, has to be condemned severely. The 2019 Payal Tadvi suicide case is yet another reminder that society has no place for unruly conduct.  

The dreary first half threatens to derail the film but it’s the banter, especially by Sexa that keeps you entertained. Sharma typifies the over smart despot who doesn’t walk the talk.  His father’s surprise visit sees Sexa being exposed.

Unheralded actor Saharsh Kumar Shukla finds a rare meaty role. Though he looks a little overaged for a college student, the actor provides the most hilarious moment. While travelling back home, Bevda has cleverly diluted his water with Vodka. A fellow passenger, asks him to share the water bottle with his parched little son, but Bevda refuses. It’s not taken kindly by the child’s parents who then hurl the choicest of cuss words in Marathi [beeped of course].

Young Tushar Pandey played one of the leads in Rajshri Productions’ Hum Chaar [2019].  Pandey finds himself in another campus drama reunion. His character is a little overbearing to begin with.  Small town folks can be innocent but that doesn’t mean they don’t indulge in self pleasure upon attaining adolescent. Unheralded seasoned actor Sanjay Goradia, who plays Sundar’s father charms us again with his boyish smile and almost muted laughter.

Tahir Raj Bhasin holds his own as Derek, while Prateik Babbar, too, plays his part as H4’s chief opponent Raggie.  For all his conniving though, there is still a lot to be admired in Raggie. His passion for sports can be gauged from his disdain for academic and appreciation for any person’s sporting skills. And that explains why he wants to fill his hostel 3 with the best sporting talent in the campus.

One isn’t disappointed with Sushant Singh Rajput but his performance can best be described  as mixed bag. Often, your reviewer has found him wanting in emotional scenes. And it’s same the story here when both Shraddha Kapoor and Rajput don’t look convincing in the tearjerker moments.  The familiar frailties hurt the film.

While there is no great performance, but Tiwari has made effective use of the talent at his disposal. He hasn’t overexposed any artiste than their talent permits.  Much like Stree [2018], Shraddha Kapoor benefits here too with limited but adequate footage.

Make up-artiste Preetisheel Singh is good at making people look beyond their ages. Sushant Singh Rajput has been given the thick beard.  Sharma looks the part with the receding hairline and the dyed hair and moustache.  Saharsh Kumar Shukla though gets a tad bulging forehead making him look like Hector Hammond [Peter Sarsgaard ] from the Green Lantern [2011].  As an engineering student, Shraddha Kapoor sports curly hair. Twenty years later, she doesn’t have a wrinkle, just one while strand of hair, and the curls have given way to unswerving hair.   She looks unconvincing as the mother of a 17-18 year old boy. Of all the cast, it is Tahir Raj Bhasin who looks to have aged naturally.

Far from his best, but Pritam’s music is apt for the situation that the characters find themselves in.

The film needed a tighter screenplay. It perhaps lacks great performances, definitely needed to be trimmed but Chhichhore succeeds in sending across its message. A message that one’s life will not be determined by marks, success or failure. Life will be determined by life itself.

The rate race, especially in a popular nation like India, puts undue pressures on people to succeed. It’s this pressure that sees parents push their child to achieve their dreams. Chhichhore tells us the value of life. It tells us parents to have expectations but more importantly have the right conversations with their child. Tell them, that it’s not success or failure, but the effort that counts.  No one embodies this better than Tiwari’s losers.

Watch the trailer of Chhichhore below.

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