Starring: Rajkummar Rao, Nushrat Bharucha, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Saurabh Shukla, Satish Kaushik, Ila Arun
Director: Hansal Mehta
A film from the stables of Bollywood actor-producer Ajay Devgn comes with some promise of originality and an effort to break new ground. The feel-good sporting genre with a tried and tested formula of building up to a competition that turns into an edge-of-the-seat finale does give ‘Chhalaang’ some of that promise.
Mahinder Hooda a.k.a. Montu (Rao) is a lackadaisical youngster, who is employed as a Physical Training Instructor (PTI) in the same government-funded school where he studied at in the northern Indian state of Haryana. His own lack of professional training and drive aside, Montu is quite convinced that the schoolchildren under his charge have very little to benefit from physical education and therefore approaches his lessons with a sense of apathy he believes they deserve.
The school principal Usha (Arun) makes no secret of the fact that she has kept Montu on the school’s payroll only as a favour to his lawyer father (Kaushik) and to get him to run around for her personal errands. This cavalier approach to life, which involves lazy drinking sessions with his former tutor (Shukla), gets shaken up somewhat with the entry of Neelu (Bharucha) as the attractive new computer teacher for the school. Not only is her subject area a more modern one, but Neelu herself is a breath of fresh air for the staid old school because she strongly believes in teachers making a positive and lasting impression on young minds.
An obvious romantic pull towards his attractive new colleague comes under some strain when the principal gives into new governmental guidelines to employ a professionally trained physical education teacher, I.M. Singh (Ayyub), to oversee Montu’s PTI classes. The stage is set for an inevitable clash, not only of talents but also of male egos. Will these new challenges push Montu to up his lazy game or will he fail to make that jump to land on the road to victory?
‘Chhalaang’ had all the ingredients to cook up a tasteful modern-day sporting flick, along the lines of Aamir Khan’s legendary ‘Lagaan’. But it is let down by a poorly executed script that seems to lose its way on exactly how to mix up all the different ingredients in the correct quantity to come up with a well-balanced offering.
While the actors are fairly engaging in their respective roles, enough to overlook Bharucha’s at times misplaced Haryanvi accent, the lack of a proper thread and focus on a central theme ultimately lets the film down. Is it a commentary on a new India embracing a broader championship spectrum over and above cricket? Is it about the emancipation of the girl child? Is it a critique of the flawed education system? In an attempt to be all of these things at once, the film unfortunately ends up being a jump to nowhere.