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Chintu Ka Birthday review: A unique film that moves you

Chintu Ka Birthday addresses a subject of grave urgency

Source: SIFY

By: Shrikanth Venkatesh

Critic's Rating: 3/5

Monday 03 August 2020

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Movie Title

Chintu Ka Birthday review: A unique film that moves you

Director

Devanshu Kumar/Satyanshu SIngh

Star Cast

Vinay Pathak, Tillotama Shome, Vedant Chibber

Chintu Ka Birthday was a film that garnered a lot of attention on its announcement, as it was to be produced by AIB, arguably India’s most popular content creators in the comedy space. This film is now streaming on the OTT platform Zee5, where I had the chance to catch it.

The film opens with a title card that informs us that the story is set in Baghdad, in the year 2003. This was a time of escalating conflict between Saddam’s forces in Iraq and the American troops, and most Indian families were being evacuated on war footing by the Indian Government. Unfortunately, there were also some like the film’s protagonist Chintu’s, that got left behind.

We meet Chintu (Vedant Chibber) and his family of five (including his elder sister, mother, father and grandmother) on the morning of his sixth birthday. They are originally from Bihar, but a business opportunity that his father Madan (Vinay Pathak) stumbled upon to sell water coolers in the parched Middle East, has brought them all to Iraq. Sadly (though it sounds a little preposterous from a scripting perspective), Madan has been duped with a fake passport and this means the Indian embassy refuses to rescue them out of Baghdad along with the other families. As an American soldier later quips, Baghdad seems to have turned into a black hole for Madan and co, a place from where there seems to be no escape.

In the midst of all this anxiety though, a surprise party has been planned for Chintu on his special day, right after he returns home from school. But as it turns out, the situation outside seems to be deteriorating faster than expected. The school has declared a holiday and in fact, as we learn from Chintu’s friend Waheed later on, the school building has been razed down completely by bombs (much to his innocent delight)!

The problems don’t stop there. A car bomb goes off next, just outside their house. This prompts American army officers to conduct a recce of every house in the area, including Chintu’s, lest the perpetrator still be at large and hiding. What complicates matters for Chintu’s family here, is the Iraqi visitor they have over for the party (their landlord Mahdi). He is a man already undergoing severe trauma from a torturous stint in jail and begs of Chintu’s parents to conceal his presence from the marauding American soldiers.

What strikes you immediately about Chintu Ka Birthday, if you look closely, is the staunch minimalism at its core. The topics it addresses are ones with global ramifications, but the whole film unfolds inside Chintu’s own little world, his home away from home. Take for example the car bombing scene. We first see Chintu’s mother (Tillotama Shome) and grandmother crooning out a lovely melody for him inside the house, a special song they’d reserved for his birthday, and then suddenly……BOOM! Another film might have had an elaborate external set piece to showcase and choreograph the action, but here, just the soundscape is employed brilliantly to achieve the same effect.

This is also where you realize the enormity of the acting performances in this film. Vinay Pathak and Tillotama Shome are towering with their presence throughout and beautifully complement the minimalist ambitions of the directors. Pathak especially excels in his portrayal of Madan, a man torn apart on the inside by the tragic events beset upon him, but forcing himself valiantly to maintain a jovial exterior for the sake of his loved ones. I was also impressed by the really authentic portrayal of the American soldiers by the actors who played them. This was not easy to pull off, but the writing and acting were both spot on here.

At its core, this film indeed addresses a subject of grave urgency. However, the writers have tried to keep the mood light as far as possible, using various devices like the jocular portrayal of a regular Indian family’s idiosyncrasies and also Chintu’s chucklesome voiceover notes during certain parts in the film (his reference to a cartoonish figure of George Bush as the ‘Amrika wale uncle’ especially had me in splits)!

Chintu does finally manage to get himself a birthday cake and a party too, though not exactly in the circumstances as were originally planned. You see the six candles planted on his cake and you wish they would add an extra one there, for peace! And you also wish, that every sound of explosion from above would only result in toffees raining down on everyone, just like from the balloons decorating the walls of Chintu’s home on his big day.

Shrikanth is a Chartered Accountant, who keenly follows and writes about cinema when he is not crunching numbers or balancing ledgers! You can find more of his work at Non Linear Plot

Also read:

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Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal: An ode to Mani Ratnam's Thiruda Thiruda

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