Cast: Jitendra Kumar, Ritika Badiani, Alam Khan
Director: Apurva Dhar Badgaiyann
When a new girl comes to a school, college or town, the mystery around her makes many people swoon. This is a storyline we have watched many times in Hindi films. However, this time it is an unsuspecting minor school-girl and all the men in said town. Hence Chaman Bahar starts off as an extremely uncomfortable watch.
A film about an ambitious pan-seller, Billu who wants to be known by everyone in the town, finds out that the pan-shop he started with very high expectations now falls in a redundant area of town. He is now dejected because he left his inherited post as a forest guard for this, and hangs a calendar with the image of Goddess Laxmi, the Hindu Goddess of wealth in his shop, only to spot his real-life Laxmi moments later. A wealthy family moves in the house opposite his shop, and the daughter, Rinku catches his eye immediately.
Our hero looks at her in awe as she moves in slow motion, her straightened hair flying while she plays with her pet Pomeranian. She also, unfortunately, seems to catch the eye of all the young men in the town on while she rides to her school on a scooty. These men now begin getting their nicotine fix from our hero. Business booms, so does his problems.
When two of Billu's parasitic friends involve two rival political leaders, he realises the list of her “Aashiqs" is way too long. He then looks for various ways to get them out of the race. All of this without ever meeting her.
What I like about Chaman Bahar is that even when it is very testosterone-y – there are two female characters, one gets a line to speak and no, that is not the lead – it is not a Kabir Singh. While it is a very authentic portrayal of male entitlement in small cities of India, there are consequences to ones actions.
Speaking of authenticity, the look and feel of the film is so on-point, the dialect is perfect, and the humour is “swaad-anusaar." Nobody looks like an actor, they look like they belong. The only person who looks out of place is Rinku, and that is because she is made to look that way. The men fall in love with her because she is an idolised and aspirational example of class and beauty for them. That is quite a genius move on the director’s part.
Apurva Dhar Badgaiyann, who has also written the screenplay of the film, tries to put in various layers to this “love story.” He talks about poverty, poor people being political pawns, cancer, police brutality and harassment. For you to actually get a taste of this amalgamation, you need to have patience. There are also quick sequences that might not mean much, but are really witty in hindsight. It is a film based on clever writing.
The best thing about the film is Jitendra Kumar. The man is a chameleon and can become any character he wants to. There are so many highs in this performance, some of which you will take away with you long after the film is over. Ritika Badiani is full of potential, emoting well without dialogues. She becomes one-toned throughout the film, as her character is written strongly from the male gaze, but does get her redemption arc later in a penultimate sequence. Bhuvan Arora and Dhirendra Tiwari are a delight and stand out from Jitendra's passivity in the first half of the film. Alam Khan too, as a pan-chewing political heir steals the show.
Chaman Bahar is quite an entertaining watch if you want to watch something funny yet heartfelt. You cannot expect a lot of political correctness or female empowerment in it, but that is exactly how it is like to be a woman in India.
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