Director: Nitesh Tiwari
When asked about the best days of our life, most of us go into flashback mode and think of our school and college days. The time when friends were family and midnight shenanigans and midnight cravings went hand-in-hand. Nostalgia, accompanied with envy, hits you the moment you see a group of carefree college students. Because time moves in one direction.
Nitesh Tiwari, an IIT Bombay passout, taps into this nostalgia and presents us Chhichhore, to evoke our college memories. College dramas are something that the audience, no matter the generation, have always leaned on.
It's the safest bet for a successful film. Some hostel pranks, a college romance, promises to keep in touch with friends, a sports tournament, a tragedy - and you have got yourself a full-on entertainer. (And once in a lifetime, you also have a 3 Idiots. But once in a lifetime.)
Director Nitesh Tiwari, back on the director's chair after the massive blockbuster Dangal, does all of that. He is that first-bencher who would meticulously take down all notes point-by-point and vomit them back on the answer sheet sans any creativity. Chhichhore is a classic case of that very learning the formula to success by rote but not knowing how to apply it in real life syndrome.
The film starts with Aniruddh and Maya's (Sushant Singh Rajput and Shraddha Kapoor) son involved in a tragedy after failing to secure a coveted seat in India's top engineering college, unlike his father and mother, who were rank holders. This leads to a reunion between Aniruddh and his college friends - Varun Sharma as Sexa, Tahir Raj Bhasin as Derek, Naveen Polishetty as Acid, Tushar Pandey as Mummy and Saharsh Shukla as Bevda.
The gang starts telling stories of their eventful college life to the kid, who can speak clearly in the film despite the circumstances, hoping that their story can improve his condition. So we go into flashback and see the actors narrate to Aniruddh and Maya's son, and us, tales of their lively college life.
The tone of the film is as inconsistent as it can be. In one scene, you will see Sushant sobbing while talking to his son, and in the next, he is planning pranks with his friends in college. The transition is not seamless. Director Nitesh Tiwari aims to have both - past and present - tracks run parallel to each other, but it simply doesn't work. The sudden change of the background score from melancholic tunes to upbeat music too doesn't help the audience understand what Nitesh is trying to do with the film.
College dramas like these require strong performances, with the story needing the lead actors help propel the film. But in Chhichhore, Sushant and Shraddha will leave you hanging. It's the film's supporting cast, a shoutout to Varun Sharma, that carries the burden of the entire film on their shoulders.
Sushant's performance as the middle-aged father is nothing less than a caricature. Even when the doctor explains to him his son's condition, he sits there with a blank expression. He sobs, tries to wipe his tear-less eyes, but just fails to convince the audience that he is heartbroken.
Shraddha, as Maya, isn't much convincing either. The actress has one expression for every mood, and by now, we have seen too much of that one expression. Along with that, the film's script also limits her character to being just a pretty face who is always present to cheer for her boyfriend from the stands.
Varun Sharma delivers yet another remarkable performance in Chhichhore. He gets the best punchlines in the film and he delivers them in his own unique style. Naveen Polishetty and Tushar Pandey also leave an imprint with their performances.
The writing isn't all too sloppy. Some scenes will manage to you crack you up, but they are stuffed with cliches. Imagine every punchline that a college drama can have and some more. Now imagine all of them stuffed into a film. Chhichhore is that.
Chhichhore delivers an important message on exam pressure, quite literally, with Sushant enunciating the message in a speech just in case you didn't get it even after 2 hours of seeing the same. The film feels like a missed opportunity. Director Nitesh Tiwari had a subject that appealed to all generations, but he fails to create that magic that a memorable college drama should have had.
Chhichhore is a one-time watch and is for those who are are still hung up on their college life. But it is no 3 Idiots. You might want to call your college buddies after the film.