Chintu Ka Birthday is a movie that can give an emotional high to movie lovers and a confidence boost to those aspiring movie makers. The emotional high to the viewer is because of the way it looks at humans stranded in various situations due to certain political decisions made by a handful of people. The way they have shot this movie as a single location drama without losing the intensity of the chaos out there can really make young filmmakers go for ambitious topics without the need of a monumental budget.
The story is set in Iraq in early 2004. The Saddam Hussain era has ended and the US troops are all over the city. An Indian family living there was all set to celebrate the birthday of the youngest in the family, Chintu. But an explosion happens outside their home and two US soldiers came to their home to search for local Iraqis. The turn of events that happens on that day is the content of Chintu Ka Birthday.
The 2016 Egyptian movie Clash, showed a massive riot by placing the camera inside a police truck. I am not drawing comparisons here, but somewhere the movie Chintu Ka Birthday reminded me of that movie in terms of presentation. A family is inside their house, they are planning to celebrate a birthday, we can hear gunshots, blasts, fighter planes, helicopters, etc and yet the movie is strictly inside a house. Without the need for a visual of a destroyed city, directors Devanshu Kumar and Satyanshu Singh were able to show us the tension in the atmosphere. And the narrative slowly shifts from being a good guy versus bad guy to a humanitarian theme. And they are not trying to give an essay about the backdrop of each character. Even a silly joke here has some connection with the past of certain characters.
Vinay Pathak’s character is not showing any drastic change in his attitude. He is a man of optimism and compassion. Even though the reports from India weren’t promising, he was confident that something will happen in favor of the family. Pathak manages to present a diverse range of emotions in a minimalistic way. Tilotama Shome as the wife is also pretty effective. That scene where she asks one of the soldiers to give permission to take a call was really moving. Seema Pahwa shows her caliber by doing justice to the nagging grandmother character. Khalid Massou as the landlord Mahdi does manage to show us his compassion and fear. Reginald L Barnes and Nathan Scholz were effective as the US military officers. Vedant Chibber as Chintu is adorable and Bisha Chaturvedi as his sister was also fine.
Devanshu Kumar and Satyanshu Singh who have directed this film has done a commendable job in keeping it minimal. Chintu Ka Birthday has this short film-like quality where every detail has something to do with the story. Mahdi talks casually about rats he found in the jail and later we get to see the truth in that back-story. The phone calls to India shows the helplessness of the family. Madan Tiwary is an extremely compassionate man who even takes care of the injured soldier who invaded his house and the writer-director duo manages to place him as a real character rather than an exaggerated unreal goodness package. Just like Eeb Allay Ooo! this movie is also showing the privileged class how lucky they are. The sound design of the movie is terrific and it is the sound design that plays a key role in mood-building. The cinematography captures the tension effectively and the cuts will keep you engrossed till the last moment.
What fascinates me about this movie is how effectively they pulled off an idea without the need for gory or grand visuals. It addresses the emotional trauma of the least common denominator in events like a war or invasion. The film might not be giving us a lot about the US officers. But we can clearly sense that they also don’t enjoy being the bad guys in someone else’s homeland. Chintu Ka Birthday is an optimistic drama set in a harshly realistic world.
What fascinates me about this movie is how effectively they pulled off an idea without the need for gory or grand visuals.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended