Every once in a while there comes along a film that takes you down memory lane. Taare Zameen Par and most recently Stanley Ka Dabba unlocked a wave of nostalgia for the crisp, pressed uniforms, tiffin sharing during long and short recesses and that one favourite teacher. But this film is different, in a good way. Chillar Party makes you want to go back to the time when children preferred kaccha cricket pitches to malls and board games to video games. It reminds you of the time when frolicking in the play-ground, playing lock-and-key and cricket was the only agenda on weekends and after school; when lunch would come as a disturbance which threw the entire schedule off-track and therefore had to be gobbled up at full-speed; when the garages or makeshift tents and board games were the only respite from the afternoon heat.
Well, the children of Chandan Society are certainly lucky in that respect. They don't have to knick old sheets from home or sit amongst cars as they have their own personal shed, quite a snazzy one with a green door. So the society's chillar party comprises of kids with unique pet-names (Jhangiya, Silencer, Encyclopedia, Shaolin, Panauti) and the latest addition to this gang is the tapori boy who washes the cars, aptly called Phatka, and his constant companion, a stray named Bhidu. When a fading politician decides to campaign against stray-dogs in a bid to save his floundering career and makes it his personal vendetta to send Bhidu to the pound, our heroic kaccha limboos take it upon themselves to save their friend by garnering the support of unwilling society members, and later the city at large.
The story is fairly simple and straight-forward. It is the battle of good versus evil, but not necessarily children versus adults. While the film does touch upon the fact that children are very often not taken seriously by grown-ups, unlike Always Kabhi Kabhi, it does not classify parents as evil but in fact shows their reasons for acting the way they do too. Though many sequences have been exaggerated for dramatic effect, there's a thread of reality and honesty that runs through the film that makes if extremely endearing to watch.
The compelling narration is accompanied by some powerful visuals. The camera work by is fresh and preserves the child-like innocence. Though mostly fun, the film has its fair share of 'gulp' moments when at least this reviewer felt their eyes water up. Case in point: the entire sequence when Phatka frantically searches for Bhidu, their joyful reunion and the consequent guilt felt by the 'chillar' party.
First time directors Vikas Bahl and Nitesh Tiwari do a fantastic job of letting the viewers look at the situation from the children's point of view and present a medley of characters that bring their own flavour to the proceedings. The film has you hooked from the very beginning when each and every chillar of the party is introduced to the audience.
However, the interest levels are bound to dip in the second half when the plot becomes a bit contrived. As mentioned before, there are some scenes that serve mainly as a dramatic boost but do little to take the narrative forward. The chaddi march, though innovative is not really relevant. The end itself is a bit of disappointment and the ultimate face-off between the children and the minister is more like a silent sparkler than a sutli bomb.
The child actors are undoubtedly the stars of the show and all of them pitch in with charming performances. However, Naman Jain as Jhangiya aka he-who-does-not wear-underwear just steals your heart and has some of the best one-liners in the film. Irrfan Khan as Phatka is full-on tapori, yet extremely endearing. Chinmai Chandranshuh who plays the role of Panauti, the un'Lucky' sardar is extremely lovable as is Aarav Khanna, the high-pitched Aflatoon. Vishesh Tiwari (Second Hand) and Divji Handa (Shaolin) are simply adorable and Rohan Grover as Akram packs in quite a mature performance. Another Kunal Kohli in the making perhaps? Satyadeep Mishra and Swara Bhaskar have memorable cameos.
The soundtrack of Chillar Party may not boast of a maa or bum bum bole but it has its fair share of melodious tunes by Amit Trivedi. Though the item number with Ranbir Kapoor (tai tai phiss) is the one song that's most seen on telly, it's chatte batte which totally takes you into flashback mode. The Mohit Chauhan number is accompanied by some very fun visuals. The rock-ish battle song ziddi piddi works in the situation and ek school banana hai is a soulful tune that picks up tempo halfway.
Chillar Party starts off with a dedication - 'For the love of dogs'. It's a known fact that both co-producer Salman Khan and co-director Vikas Bahl dote on their dogs and the film is in fact a tribute to their furry friends. Those who share their love are bound to love the film too (Bhidu's sad face makes you go 'aww!') and the kids will definitely have a blast. However, though the name suggests it, this film is not limited to the half-tickets. Chillar Party has something for everybody, children and adults alike and should most certainly make it to your must-watch list this weekend!