Chhalaang, the new Rajkummar Rao movie directed by his favorite collaborator Hansal Mehta feels like a movie they both did to relax. Before this movie, Kumar and Mehta have teamed up for films like City Lights, Shahid, Omerta, and Aligarh. But Chhalaang has nothing in common with those movies, and it is mainly because this one is co-written and co-produced by Luv Ranjan, who has created the Punchnama franchise and Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety. Chhalaang is a mixed bag of familiar ingredients that works in parts but doesn’t have that convincing feel when you look at it in totality.
Mahinder, aka Montu, the lazy physical education teacher of a school in Haryana, is our leading man. He has no interest in creating athletes out of students. He is most active in other activities such as helping the HM in her wedding business, trashing up couples during valentine’s day, etc. One day a new teacher named Neelima was appointed in the school, and Montu fell for her instantly. But his lazy and patriarchal mindset never gave him a chance to win her love. In the meantime, the HM of the school appointed another PTI teacher named Inder Mohan Singh and asked Montu to assist him. This eventually leads to a battle of the egos. And what happens at the end of that for Montu is what Chhalaang telling us.
The first hour of the movie Chhalaang is like the roast of a moral policing guy who takes pride in protecting the Great Indian Sanskaar. Even though it was on an on-the-face level, it was interesting to know that the writing credit for this movie was shared by Luv Ranjan, who is known for having misogynistic content in his hit movies. If I hadn’t seen the movie’s trailer, I might have ended up thinking that this is going to be a love story where a confident young woman will squeeze out every bit of patriarchal, sexist elements from the guy who came to propose to her. But Chhalaang takes a sudden Chak De India-turn towards its midway. The small-town fun vibe that was created till that moment somewhat gets forgotten, and the movie enters that guessable area.
The writing in the second half of the movie has a very disjoint feel in terms of the emotions. It is almost like Barrialy Ki Barfi suddenly decided to become a Dangal. But the film doesn’t have enough time to create a Dangal-like aura around it. The cut-out pattern of the rise of the underdog sports movie gets played out. Discrete moments of gooseflesh were there when the characters talked about the “don’t give up” philosophy. But the second half had this cloudy feel to its treatment. Montu’s past gets forgotten, it suddenly becomes a competition between the men to get Neelu, and in the end, they are talking about good parenting (it was a good point, though). Visuals are pretty good, and I loved how Hansal Mehta managed to pull off a highly predictable sports sequence in a fairly engaging way.
Rajkummar Rao, in his vivacious Haryanvi accent, gets into the character with ease. After having seen him Ludo and Chhalaang on the same day, I would say that his depiction of that jackass side of characters is really hilarious and quite natural. Nushrat Bharucha as Neelima was pleasing in her character, but you don’t see her getting a challenging moment in the film as she is simply in the hero’s shadows in the second half. Satish Kaushik and Saurabh Shukla were fun to watch as they deliver those dialogues with grace and ease. I felt bad for Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub simply because of the vague nature of that Singh character.
An overcrowded second half with a very abrupt ending reduces the appeal of an otherwise passable feel-good drama. When Chhalaang reaches that climax speech from Montu, it’s not just Zeeshan Ayyub’s Singh who is feeling “What! That’s it?” Even a section of the audience will feel somewhat the same.
Chhalaang is a mixed bag of familiar ingredients that works in parts but doesn't have that convincing feel when you look at it in totality.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended