Director: Pan Nalin
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Director Pan Nalin’s coming-of-age Gujarati drama Chhello Show (Last Film Show) is India’s official entry to Oscars. The film revolves around a young boy Samay (played by Bhavin Rabari) who discovers his love for cinema after witnessing its magic in a single screen theatre. However, his orthodox father (Bapuji, played by Dipen Raval) doesn’t approve of the child’s affection for movies, which forces him to pursue his ambition secretly. Just like every path that takes you closer to your dream, Samay too faces several challenges and roadblocks along the way before he understands his true calling, and acts upon it to reach his desired destination.
The biggest strength of Chhello Show is how rooted it is in terms of visuals, approach and treatment. The placement and the depiction of the primary characters – Samay, Baa (Richa Meena), Bapuji and projectionist Fazal (Bhavesh Shrimali) – stays true to the milieu and the theme of the project. The story is also very relatable, which allows the audience to connect with the quest narrative. Dialogues penned by Keyu Shah is another strong element of the movie. They are simple, impactful and some even make you think. “Aa Badho Khel Vaarta No Che. Bhavishya Na Badha Maaliko Vaartakaro Che (The game is to tell stories. The future belongs to storytellers),” is one such example of rousing lines.
Director of Photography (DOP) Swapnil S Sonawane’s lens brings alive the world of Chalala, the Saurashtra village in which the film is set. Especially, his wide angle shots do justice with the beauty of the location. While costume design by Sia Seth and casting by Dilip Shankar is bang on, production design by Pan Nalin himself looks authentic, considering Chhello Show is touted as semi-autobiographical. However, the portion that steals your heart is the climax, which one has to see to experience it. Samay and director Pan Nalin’s love for cinema comes alive on the big screen with all the tributes that have been paid in the sequence.
What doesn’t really work for me is the pace in the second half. While the first half manages to introduce and engulf you into the world of Chhello Show, one would expect a certain speed and maybe more high points in the latter half of the film. Writer Pan Nalin and editors Shreyas Beltangdy and Pavan Bhat could have spent a little more time in sharpering that. Music by Cyril Morin too doesn’t connect.
Bhavin Rabari, who plays the lead protagonist is a wonder boy, and the real star of Last Film Show. He has truly brought Samay alive on the big screen, making him both real and relatable. His partner in crime, projectionist Fazal played by Bhavesh Shrimali has delivered an equally impactful performance. Dipen Raval as Samay’s father portrays a beautiful arc, though my favourite character from Chhello Show is of Samay’s mother played by Richa Meena. She has given an extremely controlled performance, beautifully portraying the dilemma of a mother that hails from a conservative set up. Other supporting cast, including the kids who play Samay’s friends have lived up to their roles.
Chhello Show (Last Film Show) is a human story, effortlessly depicting the beauty of desire, hope and passion through Samay’s character. Watch it for the love of cinema.
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