Chhappad Phaad Ke movie review: Vinay Pathak in an impressive satire that dares to punch up to privilege
Chhappad Phaad Ke dares to punch up to privilege and does a fine job of it
castVinay Pathak, Ayesha Raza, Siddharth Menon, Sheetal Thakur
directorSameer Hemant Joshi
A simple enough plot consisting of a middle-class family and its unprecedented encounter with enormous amounts of cash — this is the crux of Sameer Joshi's Chhappad Phaad Ke. At the outset, the narrative seems far from impactful, let alone being a poignant spokesperson of our current lives and times, and it is precisely why all credits for the film should go to the crew for having developed such nuanced storytelling within its two hours runtime.
Debutante director Sameer Hemant Joshi and screenwriter Yashodhan Kelkar brew an incredibly crafted and layered exposé of Indian hypocrisy and how deeply enmeshed it is within society's most powerful faction — the working middle class. The Gupchup family is at the centre of action. Sharad Gupchup (Vinay Pathak) is a stickler for rules. Through Pathak's character, Sameer presents subtle commentary on the 'ideal naagrik (citizen) of 2019.' Sharad believes in a swachh Bharat and sings open praises of the current government and its promises of achhe din.
All the while that Sharad showers accolades on the government, his family, consisting of wife Vaishali Gupchup (Ayesha Raza), son Shubham (Siddharth Menon), daughter Ketaki (Sheetal Thakur) and father Atmaram (Madhav Vaze), faces rude shocks as a consequence of national political moves. The filmmaker intelligently utilises demonetisation to highlight this.
Sharad's unflinching faith remains untainted through his family's hurdles, he still swears by the administration and cranes his neck for the unicorn at the end of the rainbow. But all of this only till Shubham stumbles upon a stash of five crores in crisp Rs 2000 notes.
A judicious (and apt) user of cinematic tropes, Joshi's opening shot ought to make sense to audiences now — Bertolt Brecht's pithy saying, "No person can be good for long if goodness is not in demand." Sameer and Yashodhan weave their narrative extra carefully after the point of crisis (the moolah) is introduced. But they keep adding tit-bits to the film as hints for viewers to pick up on.
Sharad and Shubham form obvious opposite poles of the spectrum. While one lives by his principles, the other is more than happy biding his time waiting to be a successful photographer. Sharad's immense frustration with Shubham seems odd at first, since it's almost toxic. But as their characters open to new revelations, it becomes clearer to viewers that a lot of Sharad's exterior is governed by his inferiority complexes, or more directly, he hates his son's guts.
Sameer is unabashedly political in his storytelling, both humourous and self-aware about the world he wants to create. In a hilarious scene where Shubham follows his unsuspecting mother to an unknown location, Joshi inputs a 'wow' moment. Shubham huffs and puffs behind his mother, and asks an auto driver, "aap uss auto ka pichhha karo (follow that auto)." Though it's a very popular (and common) sentence in Hindi films, Chhappad Phaad Ke instead chooses to stick to reality. The driver gruffly snaps, "Kiska peechha karu? Woh auto pura sheher ghumega toh mein bhi ghumu kya?" (Who do I follow? Just because he'll roam the entire city, will I also go around after him?) Such reactions not only add the much-need comic relief, but also work in favour of building a world that is relatable and still relevant.
Prashant Pillai's background score and songs work wonders in putting Sameer's wry humour to the foreground. Amit V Masurkar's Newton also created a world built on ideals and the pride of propriety. Chhappad Phaad Ke begins a similar journey and much like Newton, ends up only showing the uselessness of honesty in today's world.
Pathak sinks his teeth deep into Sharad's character and concocts a delicious mix of iconic do-gooders in Bollywood, ranging from Bhavani Shankar from Golmaal to Kamal Kishore Khosla from Khosla Ka Ghosla. Pathak is especially good with scenes where he diverts from track and takes on a more sinister undertone of a greedy political cadre.
Also worth mentioning are Ayesha and Siddharth's performances. Raza instills believability in the role of a gullible, pea-brained wife who always puts her family first. Menon, on the other hand, nails the nonchalant, millennial voice that is irreverent and only believes in shortcuts.
Chhappad Phaad Ke dares to punch up to privilege and does a fine job of it. We need such films, especially in an environment where leading commercial heroes bend over backwards to cash in on nationalist sentiment.
Chhappad Phaad Ke is streaming on Hotstar.
(All images from YouTube)
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