Chhello Show (Last Film Show)
Thank God It Is Friday and with it come some fresh new releases. But first up I decided to finish watching the Gujarati Film Chhello Show aka Last Film Show which is officially India’s submission to the Oscars this year. The film has been in the headlines on how it wasn’t the ideal film to be sent to the Academy awards given the craze of the frontrunner RRR. That aside I suggest we atleast support the film by watching it as it is someone’s hard work put on celluloid. Whether it wins or not is a separate question.
Films have always fascinated me right from my childhood. I was probably just about 3 years old when my mother did take me to a theatre to watch the animated film Thumbalina. As per her, it was my grandma who had nudged her into taking me to a theatre(given my love for her stories or stories in general), a decision that has gone down in history as one of the best decisions to shape me as an individual. I was told by her on how things would be in a theatre – the lights would be off(to which I had retorted, then how can we see things if the light is off) and a big “TV” would be there. So my journey with cinema has been a long one but a very strong one. Unlike a few kids who run about in theatres, I had always been attentive to the magic unfolding onscreen.
So films made on cinema is a genre which would always feel personal. I remember I had earlier watched the Italian film Cinema Paradiso and it almost took me back to the projector era which was in its last legs when I was a child. The excitement of watching a film in a theatre with a packed crowd cheering and hooting is an experience that is unparalleled. And I would be lying if I say it ain’t magical. And so I expected a similar trip down memory lane with the Gujarati film Chhello Show which is now out in theatres. So then is Chhello Show(aka Last Film Show) worth your time, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Set in a remote village in Gujarat, Chhello Show follows the story of a little kid who gets acquainted with his love for cinema when he visits a local theatre for the first time. The story is a nostalgic trip down memory lane that felt just so personal. Yes, certain parts of the film will remind you of Cinema Paradiso but the trajectory of the story is very different here. The screenplay standing at under 2 hours makes for a crisp watch where the drama wouldn’t meander much.
The entire setup of the drama is a fascinating one. You are introduced to the young protagonist and his family wherein you instantly get to know about their humble backgrounds. While the village where the drama is set in is beautiful, the family is shown to visit a local theatre which is the next district. Their conversations revolving around cinema are relatable and quite grounded. The first brush with cinema is often special. I remember being awed by it as well and curious on how things are unfolding. A similar scene depicted the young protagonist slowly falling in love with cinema yet being quite curious on how the film is shown on the big screen. In a separate scene, the young protagonist wishes to look at the world through the film lens in what seemed like a kaleidoscope which was beautifully depicted.
The drama is engaging and engrossing although it does move at a leisurely pace. This ensures that the audience are nicely invested in the drama without bit of a mad hussle. The subplots here are interesting as well, one of which showcases the relationship which the young protagonist has with his mother who is softer and more receptive and quietly encouraging to her eldest son. And the other with the father who submerged in his own sorrow is the stricter of the two. A clever two lines at the halfway mark wherein two bystanders are conversing, do give a picture into why is the father always so strict
But the entire film is primarily an ode to the “projector” era of cinema. It is almost like a deconstruction of the process of film projecting as the young protagonist and the nearby kids make a working prototype of the projector, his first step towards being a filmmaker in the most literal sense. This was a fascinating watch in many ways as it did give me a peek into how things were assembled before being eventually available onscreen.
The events leading to the final act are interesting too although a touch melancholic. It did break my heart in seeing the turn of events(something that I will conceal to avoid spoilers). It also gave the importance of education which is crucial be it in any field. But the final act was a heartfelt one, remiscent of the pre-ending of Cinema Paradiso or even The Hand Of God. The entire journey did feel personal(although we most definitely did have separate journeys with cinema being at the centre of it) summing up this screenplay which is indeed beautifully written which will coax you to shed a tear occassionally but will also put a smile on your face. The “bangle” tribute to so many filmmakers and contributors to cinema as a whole was a heartening sight that did end up giving me goosebumps.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are subtle and sparingly used. So most of the drama unfolds with any lines, leaving the audience to interpret the drama unfolding in the manner which they wish to. The BGM is again subtle and it has a touch of nostalgia attached to it in an otherwise leisurely notes that go perfectly with the drama. The cinematography is beautiful and it captures some breathtaking visuals which will fill you with delight. The editing is crisp as well. Director Pan Nalin who had earlier directed the stupendous Angry Indian Goddesses, is in sparkling form here. This in many ways did seem like his personal journey and it was almost as if he held on to your fingers and took you on a trip to his childhood. His direction was spectacular and quite brilliant.
The performances are quite good here. A couple of days back there was this heart breaking news of one of the child artists Rahul Koli succumbing to blood cancer days before this film was out. He is simply brilliant in the film and his contribution to cinema cannot be measured in words. Go Well Rahul, Rest In Peace! Dipen Raval as Samay’s father is pretty good and his character would be relatable to many kids who want to pursue a profession in cinema. But his beautiful character arc was quite heartening as well. Bhavesh Srimali as Fazal the projectionist at the theatre is first rate although his role was a touch underwritten. But the relationship which he shared with the protagonist was heartfelt. Richa Meena as Samay’s mother is absolutely terrific. Often a silent support to her child, she is outstanding often expressing her emotions through her ever so expressive eyes. Bhavin Rabari as Samay is a character we all cinephiles would relate to. His character did take me on a nostalgic trip down memory lane which my curiosity was my prime feature with respect to cinema. So many years have accounted for so many memories and I owe it to cinema in a very big way for shaping me today. But coming back to the performance of Bhavin, he is brilliant and natural to the core. His rawness is evident which in turn helps his character to blossom.
Chhello Show(aka Last Film Show) is a nostalgic drama that felt just so personal. Available in a theatre near you and Highly Recommended.