That first date with your crush over a shared cold drink or chewing your fingernails off waiting for your semester-end results? Flipping through your first Playboy glossy under the sheets or acing that math test with an A+? Drinking yourself silly in the dorm as you discuss love and life with your closest pals or the excitement — and possibly, relief — of earning that graduation certificate at the end of three years? What do you remember more from your time in college? More importantly, what do you choose to remember more?
Chhichhore is an unabashed love letter to “the best days of our lives”. The days of being carefree even when we were pressured about grades and marks. The days when friends were more than family and friends’ families were like our own. The days when we celebrated the smallest highs and laughed away the biggest lows.
Director Nitesh Tiwari — the man who gave us an equally entertaining and inspiring story in Dangal a few years ago — scripts a we-too film which will not only make you nostalgically rewind to your growing-up days and coming-of-age years, but also serve as a life lesson on success and failure, the need to let go of some things in life and the importance of holding on to those who matter.
Friendship forms the bedrock of Chhichhore. The scene and setting — and many of its moods and moments — will instantly remind you of 3 Idiots, but Tiwari, who draws inspiration for the film from his own days spent studying engineering on the IIT Bombay campus, tempers Chhichhore with both humour and heart. This is an underdog story, a coming-of-age tale, a film about relationships and a lesson about life. But most of all, Chhichhore is a film that will tease a tear out of you as easily as it will make you bend over with belly laughs.
Spanning a period of 25-odd years, Chhichhore oscillates between the past and the present, capturing the firm friendship between a set of seven friends who lose touch over the years as life takes over, but who bond back stronger than ever when tragedy strikes one of them. Aniruddh (Sushant Singh Rajput) sends out a distress call to his closest pals from National Institute of Technology when his teenaged son Raghav — stressed by his inability to crack the engineering entrance exams — attempts to take his own life. Devastated at first at Raghav’s insistence on calling himself a ‘loser’, Aniruddh — along with his estranged wife Maya (Shraddha Kapoor) — rewinds to his college days to tell his son the story of the ‘Losers’ of Hostel 4… the gang who took failure on their chin, braved life against all odds and came up trumps, even when they didn’t achieve success according to the yardstick that society measures it with.
The campus moments in Chhichhore follow a familiar formula — forging new friendships, the bittersweet moments of first love, the highs and lows of hostel life and when push comes to shove, the unflinching drive to prove one’s worth in life — but it’s formula that’s done well. The presence and function of women, apart from Shraddha’s Maya, is merely tokenism, with Chhichhore being restricted to being an out-and-out ‘boys’ club’. But for once, you really don’t mind, given the film is so much fun.
The laughs come thick and fast, most courtesy the inimitable Sexa (Varun Sharma), an over-sexed senior with an enviable porn collection who wears his heart on his sleeve. Aniruddh, Maya and Sexa apart, a motley crew makes up this gang of seven — there’s resident geek Mummy (Tushar Pandey),
foul-mouthed Acid (Naveen Polishetty), the perpetually high Bevda (Saharsh Shukla) and Derek (Tahir Raj Bhasin), the cool guy in Hostel 4 — described as “sab ka baap” — who’s out to prove a point to the rest of the college, especially to the smug bully Raggie (Prateik Babbar). The only way the inmates of Hostel 4 can rid themselves of the ‘loser’ tag is to win the college sports championship, but even as they go about it — which gives the film some of its best moments — they realise that winners are not those who don’t fail; winners are those who don’t quit.
Even when Chhichhore shifts gears to the serious present — a #win for making the characters age realistically at the cost of looking good — it remains an engaging watch. All the actors — a special mention for Sushant who brings both youthful exuberance and restrained maturity to Aniruddh — fit their characters well, with Telugu actor Naveen Polishetty making an assured debut and Tahir Raj Bhasin successfully shedding his smooth-talking anti-hero stereotype.
Chhichhore is filled with many a heartwarming moment that’s sure to bring a lump to your throat. Chances are that after this film you will hold your kids a little closer and tell them it’s all right to fail. But what you are definitely guaranteed to do is reach out and reconnect with your college chums. After all, Yaaron dosti badi hi haseen hai… yeh na ho toh kya phir bolo yeh zindagi hai….