There is an old adage, ‘Everybody was once a student’. Just like life’s evolution, the journey of being a student also goes through its own change. Each individual undergoes their own separate ride, which leads to thousands of interesting stories where the first brush with youth and freedom occurs after reaching college. Films and web shows (an entire slate of TVF shows is dedicated to colleges) have long used this aspect to tell some compelling stories. Films like 3 idiots, Student of the Year, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na are great examples of how the setting remains the same but the conflict and treatment of the story changes. But my favourite film that captures this first touch and its innocence is Chhichhore.
Loosely based on director Nitesh Tiwari’s own IIT days, the film begins with Raghav (Mohammad Samad), the child of divorced couple Anirudh ’Anni’ Pathak (Sushant Singh Rajput) and Maya (Shraddha Kapoor) under severe pressure and completely anxious trying to crack an entrance exam. He fails and feeling hopeless, deliberately slips off the balcony of a high rise to commit suicide but survives albeit in an extremely critical condition. Distressed, Maya blames Anni for putting Raghav under pressure. When the doctor (Shishir Sharma) informs them that Raghav’s condition was not improving and that he does not have the will to live, Anni realises that his son was afraid of being called a ‘loser’. That’s when he decides to gather the gather the gang i.e. Sexa (Varun Sharma), Derek (Tahir Raj Bhasin), Mummy (Tushar Pandey), Acid (Naveen Polishetty) and Bevda (Saharsh Kumar Shukla) in an unlikely reunion and tell Raghav their story and how they also were once ‘losers’.
The film then cuts to 1992 in National College of Technology hostel H4 infamous for having the worst mess food and for housing the ‘losers’ (because they always came last in the General Championship). But after Anni picks up a fight with the college bully Raggie (Prateik Babbar), it galvanises their entire hostel and they decide to challenge Raggie for the sports championship. The rest of the film then plays out with hilariously choreographed sport sequences; a ROFL level sequence involves ‘Danda’ (named so because of his weight) and the weightlifting competition, absolutely bonkers tactics; for instance to intimidate one of their opponents, the H4 mess cook shows up as a coach during a Kabaddi match saying lines like, ‘chutney bana de’ and an emotional climax that delivers a sweet and timely message about the importance of choosing.
The writing by Piyush Gupta, Nikhil Mehrotra and Nitesh Tiwari though uneven and filmy, never loses grip on the core message. In fact ironically for a college centric film, there is no sequence that involves a classroom because that is not what the film is about. There is sports, heady romance, comedy and drama a la 90’s style (a smart creative choice keeping in mind the film is set in the 90’s) all served in a sugar rush cocktail with interludes to the present. The strongest and largest chunk of the movie is based out of the engineering college and the characters bring it to life with joyous force. All of them serve a purpose in the narrative and each one gets a standout moment where they shine. The (nick)names of the primary characters have simplistic reasoning behind them but also get a secondary feature; Sexa is named due to his obsession for porn (he is introduced as Hawas ka papita) and one who does theatre, Acid is the foul mouthed who curses at the drop of a hat only in Hindi and is the fastest runner, Mummy is a Mumma’s boy who cannot fathom the stickiness of being away from his mother and is a pro at carrom, Bevda is an alcoholic without good reason but is a chess genius and Derek is the chain smoking weary stud who is an allrounder. But all of it never feels superficial because in college these are realities that define you and in the film it gives the characters their arc. In fact, in a hilarious sequence involving Anni and a sarcastic hostel officer, after Anni corrects the officer that his name is Anirudh, the officer nicely sums it up where he says, ‘Ye hostel life hai bhaiyya. Yahan Deshpanday ka Despo ho jata hai, Patwardhan ka pattu ho jata hai’. It’s exchanges like these that provide the fun without going overboard. The screenplay also continuously uses small nuggets that in real life we all have been through. For example, Maya is the prettiest girl on campus has all the boys forming a beeline for her attention given the highly skewed sex ratio. When Anni finally manages to get her attention, he simply gets tongue tied and fails to say anything comprehensible – feeling jittery the moment Maya taps him on the shoulder to check if he is okay. This situation mirrors reality to a large extent grounding the film and making it authentic.
The performances too rise above the written material and help support the wobbly screenplay. The leads Sushant Singh Rajput and Shraddha Kapoor do well and within the support cast, Varun Sharma is flat out fantastic as Sexa. He gets the best one liners and delivers them like a seasoned pro. Naveen Polishetty is brilliant in his debut role. His frustration at not doing well in studies and subsequently resorting to cursing is exceptionally funny; an entire montage is dedicated to show his ability to come up with creative (full of curses) slogans to sledge the opponents. Tahir Raj Bhasin as the senior gets to display his angst and gets lines which become life lessons. The others characters do full justice to their nickname character traits.
Chhichhore is a film that fondly reminisces about the good old days and is an effective snapshot of the time when life was simpler and the innocence of youth was bustling. It wants to remind you of that time in your life when friends in college were your support system, with whom you shared and celebrated everything, with whom the first swig of whiskey and/or puff of cigarette was taken and with whom even the most complex problems seemed easier to deal with. It wants to give out the message without forcing it down your throat that it is sometimes important to accept failure but that necessarily does not have to be the ‘end’. Because zindagi jeene ki umar thi, dosti aur doston se udhaar ke din the, woh din bhi kya din the!
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.