India’s official Oscar entry, Chhello Show is the story of Samay as he navigates life through a disapproving father and his new found love for film. Here’s why it’s so worth it!
Have you ever watched a coming-of-age drama that doesn’t require you to pull out your reading glasses and dive straight into the nuances?
Directed by Pan Nalin, the film could be more or less semi-autobiographical, given that the filmmaker himself was a movie lover ever since he was a little boy in rural Gujarat. So what makes the film worthy of an Oscar entry?
While brilliant commercial regional films were having a moment on social media, the Indian film council went ahead and named the Gujarati film Chello Show as India’s official entry to the Oscars. And yes, it was indeed the best decision they could have made!
Set on India’s transition from age-old traditional reels to swanky digital equipment, the film follows nine-year-old Samay (Bhavin Rabari) as he navigates life around his tea-selling father, school (more or less) and a new passion for movies.
Samay’s love of movies was an overnight affair. In fact, on one of those rare occasions when his father finally took the family to watch a movie, when it was clear as day that it would be their “last movie”, the boy himself had other projects. After all, listening to his discouraged father was way down on his priority list.
You would expect a little boy to be bored to death watching a movie based on gods and goddesses, but not Samay. The guy went straight for the screen as soon as he entered the room and was immediately stung by cinema fever.
Then comes a strange friendship between a projectionist named Fazal, played by Bhavesh Shrimali who, in exchange for Samay’s lunch box, yes you read that right, allowed him to drop out of school and watch movies from the room of throwing. Not like he cared less about Samay’s schooling given that it was very obvious that the boy’s calling wasn’t about to be something the four walls of schools could ever teach him.
In any case, Fazal and Samay establish an unusual relationship, with the dressed in ganji projectionist often teaches the nine-year-old all he can about the world of film reels and how films finally reach audiences from the projection room. Something he’s obsessed with, even trying to start his own theaters using only stuff you wouldn’t even watch twice.
Then comes the heartbreaking twist that changes everything in a jiffy. Fazal’s screening room was replaced with computers, a species that led Samay to reboot and rethink everything he knew about cinema as it was.
He’s seen his beloved reels ripped to pieces, but what he gets out of the process is by far the highlight of the film.
Samay is a stubborn boy. In fact, a boy so stubborn he even went to jail but never stopped going against everything his dad wanted him to be aka an “ideal boy”. Cinema was his love and he certainly wasn’t going to leave it behind. Salute Bhavin, for bringing this passionate spitfire to life!
His father, played by Dipen Raval, definitely plays the role of a typical Indian Baapuji who at first will go against anything that doesn’t lead to a good school life, but will eventually succumb to their paternal need to give back. their happy child.
The unsung hero has to be his mother aka Richa Meena, a phenomenal cook but silent support system who mainly focuses on her ghar parivaar, but doesn’t hesitate to step in and protect her child when Baapuji goes a bit out of line with shots.
Samay’s gang of helpers, Nano (Vikas Bata), Manu (Rahul Koli), Badshah (Shoban Makwa), ST (Kishan Parmar) and Tiku (Vijay Mer) are loyal beyond belief and seem to have had a clear vision of what Samay wanted to achieve more than anyone. The boys definitely captured the true essence of friendship, even as they watched in awe as Samay finally left to pursue her dreams.
Chhello Show Movie Review – Directing
What takes up a large part of the film are the train tracks. Now, while this could be a symbol of a distant land to which Samay eventually departs, most of the time they are used to lead him either to the “ghost town” where his makeshift theater is, or to the theater of the galaxy where he spends a lot of time with Fazal.
Another little tidbit is the use of tinted glasses littered throughout the film. Primarily green and red, the colors of a film reel, it is exceptionally symbolic of how all Samay wanted to do was see life through the lens of cinema.
A visual delight, each image had a purpose, just enough to keep us hooked!
Will the film be a commercial success? Maybe, maybe not. But was it ever meant to be a commercial success? The answer can be split, but as the film so graciously preaches, “The future is in the storytellers” and we’ve already started with a bang.
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