Director: Debamitra Biswal
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Athiya Shetty, Vibha Chhibber
Duration: 2 Hrs 15 mins
Like the title suggests, Motichoor Chaknachoor is sweet and slight. A 36-year-old man Pushpinder is desperate to get married. So desperate that he tells a prospective partner – aap ladki hain hum ladka hain, vivah ke liye kafi hai. His neighbor in Bhopal, a 25-year-old girl, is desperate to go abroad. So desperate that she has shortened her name from Anita to Annie and she stares mournfully at her unstamped passport. Someone says about her: woh moohphat hai aur sanskari toh bilkul nahin. Pushpinder works in Dubai. Annie aspires to London but after rejecting umpteen suitors, as her prospects for marriage dim, she decides to settle for Pushpinder. And all hell breaks loose.
Motichoor Chaknachoor is firmly situated in Bollywood’s flourishing genre of small-town movies. 15 years ago, films that didn’t travel abroad for songs or storylines were considered hatke. Producers had exploited the standard foreign locations like the UK and Switzerland so thoroughly that the more innovative filmmakers started heading to places like Machu Picchu and the Egyptian pyramids. But now Bollywood has gone back to Bharat with such ferocity that I fear that Tier 2 India is dangerously close to becoming a cliché. In Motichoor Chaknachoor, director Debamitra Biswal follows the standard beats of these films – we get the specific Hindi accent, middle-class families with squabbling mausis and jijis, platefuls of jalebi, kachori and samosas, crowded streets, a feisty heroine who refuses to play by the rules and of course, the clash of values that the internet has created. Annie’s foreign fantasy is largely fueled by the desire to post pictures so that her friends can be jealous.
As long as the film stays breezy and jokey, it stays afloat. But when the plot takes a more serious tone, tedium sets in. Many scenes sag
The characters hit the right notes – especially Pushpinder’s domineering mother, played by Vibha Chibber and Annie’s single aunt, played by Karuna Pandey. Both deliver their sharp lines with exactly the right zing. Writer Sohaib Hasan creates some vibrant scenes between the neighboring families, the Awasthis and the Tyagis. He also squeezes some fun out of the physical difference between Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Athiya Shetty. She’s so tall that when Pushpinder first meets Annie, he thinks she’s standing on something. In another scene, as their families glare at them, he actually hides behind her. Nawaz dials down his signature intensity and convincingly becomes the low-key, hapless, perplexed Pushpinder. Incredibly, Athiya stays the course with the seasoned actor. She doesn’t sparkle but she works, which is saying a lot in this scenario.
But Motichoor Chaknachoor has modest aspirations and it never soars above them because the writing isn’t strong enough. As long as the film stays breezy and jokey, it stays afloat. But when the plot takes a more serious tone, tedium sets in. Many scenes sag – I used that time to make a note of the lovely shawls the women are wearing. And the tonality shifts jarringly from slice-of-life to comedy to drama. Some of the humor is also problematic – did we really need to make an overweight girl a punchline?