A motley group of kids. An endearing canine companion. A waif busy washing cars to earn a living. Middle-class families who are insensitive to both human beings and animals. Politicians acting in an inane and obtuse manner. And kids who feel they can take on the world. All the ingredients necessary to create a melodramatic potboiler have been sourced and secured into the script. Is this one more 'childrens' film with morals woven into the script hoping to see the audience in tears?
Thankfully no. Chillar Party may not be free of the obligatory good versus evil theme which persistently makes its way into this genre (at least in Bollywood) yet it aims at generating laughter, without punching you in the gut.
Starting with the ubiquitous nicknames sometimes provided by parents or colony mates, Mumbai's Chandan Nagar Society has its band of bratty boys named as encyclopedia, secondhand, panvati etc. The reason for these names could be as varied as a personality trait to the family's financial status. A white Pomeranian owned by a cranky senior citizen turns them into dog-haters for the rest of their life. In this scenario enters Phatka, a skinny lad with determination and attitude. Both traits imperative for children who work on the streets of Mumbai and survive by their wits alone. His only companion and friend in the entire world is Bhidu a lovable black and white pariah.
Phatka survives largely on a diet of tea and glucose biscuits and keeps to himself. He sports a ragged yellow t-shirt, doesn't crave for anything but he's devoted to his pooch. The kids direct their anger on both Phatka and Bhidu, but Phatka remains resilient not wanting to give up this job -- his only means of survival.
Then the bratty middle-class kids realize the extent of their nastiness and try hard to make amends. But Phatka isn't a pushover. Will he relent? Or is this senseless feud likely to continue?
Our protagonist Phatka played by Irrfan
Khan doesn't have much to say for himself. When he speaks it's 'tapori language' picked up from watching the latest movies. Even as one laughs at his philosophies about life it's the expressive brown eyes which speak volumes about his anguish and loneliness. One sequence when he fears his beloved pooch has disappeared he breaks down but with quiet restraint.
The rest of the brats are on the verge of adolescence; where they're old enough to question their parents, too young to rebel openly. Pre-pubescent, their lives revolve around cricket and not the opposite sex. They're real (unlike the kids we've seen in YRF and Dharma productions), they grimace, they grumble, but they remain kids.
The co-directors Nitesh Tiwari and Vikas Bahl successfully recreate a poignant and touching tale about the bonds children forge among themselves, their casual indifference towards school, parents and academics and their ability to stay focused when somebody they deeply care for has become the casual victim of an adult's manipulations.
The film has a few really fun moments, especially when a chance remark such as 'Toh chadddi mein ghoomu kya' invokes a 'chaddi march' with a few hundred kids. Or the shameless way they manipulate their parents sans any qualms.
Many 'values' and 'morals' have been woven into the script. Such as how people employ child labour without batting an eyelash. Or how there is no respite for a daily wage earner even when he's shivering with fever. Although it could have been handled in a subtler fashion, but it forms an integral part of the film.
If the screenplay suffers it is due to the so-called climax (is any kiddie film complete without it) which seems foisted. The children morph into young adults abruptly. As they mouth dialogues which don't seem to come from their heart, they lose their charm which is what attracted us to them in the first place. The politician and his goon don't just appear absurd to a child, they are bizarre villainous caricatures who ideally should have induced fear but they turn into mere irritants.
Chillar Party is an enjoyable film with plenty of laughs. Do watch this, unless of course you hate kids.