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Ranjit Kapoor’s debut feature ‘Chintuji’ is faction: part fiction,part fact,borrowing incidents liberally from Rishi Kapoor’s life,and tacking them on to the character.

Written by Shubhra Gupta | New Delhi |
September 4, 2009 5:31:53 pm

Cast: Rishi Kapoor,Priyanshu Chatterji,Kulraj Randhawa

Director: Ranjit Kapoor

Rating: ***

Hadbahedi. The name of the village is a real tongue-twister,but the people who live there are straight-arrow. Guests are gods,even if they are Scotch-swilling still-famous actors begot of famous fathers. Drinking is sinful. So are the pleasures of the flesh,which lead straight to a three-day nirjala upvaas (fasting without water).

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Into this haven arrives fading star Chintuji (Rishi Kapoor),whose birthplace this happens to be. Quite by accident,he says,minus a shred of irony,as he surveys the kacchha roads,and homes minus air-conditioning: it was meant to be London,but it turned out to be this forgotten corner of rural India,with no mobile network,no daily flights to Delhi and Mumbai (only one train passes through),filled with denizens who do not lie or cheat,nor bear ill-will towards anyone.

Ranjit Kapoor’s debut feature ‘Chintuji’ is faction: part fiction,part fact,borrowing incidents liberally from Rishi Kapoor’s life,and tacking them on to the character. It positions itself as a modern-day parable,where the lines drawn between good and bad are easy to see,and where Chintuji,who starts off by being self-obsessed and self-serving,finds himself jockeyed into a place where he discovers his inner goodness.

A lot of the film is likeable,shot through with the director’s keen sense of the ridiculous (he wrote the dialogue for ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron’). Most of the characters are well-drawn and believable (the doctor who shows up to nurse Chintuji’s sprain with a fat script which he just happens to discover in his ancient medical bag,is a delight). It falters in not being able to sustain interest all the way through,and in the creation of a couple of improbable characters: the too-loud cop,who polices the neighbouring town of Triphala,where everything evil resides,and the journalist-hero (Priyanshu),who has another,more troubling identity. The drama their interaction creates is out of synch with the gentle soul of the film.

At its heart,though,there’s Rishi Kapoor,doing a great job. We know that in the beginning,he will be high-handed,and throw his considerable weight around,and that in the end,he will repent. But it’s not an all-predictable arc. The actor slips in some surprisingly nifty moves,and keeps the film moving. Given the right roles,Rishi could become one of Hindi cinema’s true thespians.

Keeping Rishi company are co-stars Priyanshu and the bright-eyed Kulraj,and Sophiya,shaking her stuff in one of the most hilariously inventive item numbers we’ve seen : worth,on its own,the price of an admission ticket.

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