For a 30-year-old Hindi college lecturer suffering from premature balding, Chaman Kohli behaves worse than a vain, petulant and insecure brat. While all the students at the Delhi University college he teaches in seem to only have time to tease him about his receding hairline and watch in amusement as he runs away from the campus in tears, we are left scratching our heads, wondering what all the fuss is about.
An official remake of the 2017 Kannada movie Ondu Motteya Kathe, Ujda Chaman marks the directorial debut of film producer Kumar Mangat’s son Abhishek Pathak. Sunny Singh of Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety fame plays the lead and while the prosthetic getup for the receding hairline is a bit in-your-face, Chaman goes through the film with such a woe-filled expression, that you feel like telling him there is more to life than moaning over your precious hair! Not to seem insensitive to those who suffer from this condition in real life, yet we can’t help but feel that an opportunity to evoke empathy among the audience for an infliction, that is considered a social stigma and silently borne by many in our society, has been squandered away.
The movie plays into all the cliches around male baldness – the primary one being that if you don’t have a coiffeur to rival that of a Bollywood hero, you are unlikely to land a girl in this life. Unless, of course, you take recourse to a hair transplant or maybe a wig, both of which Chaman considers before reluctantly deciding to embrace his natural self.
Maanvi Gagroo who plays Apsara, the overweight girl whom Chaman meets on Tinder in contrast is the mature, sensible and sorted type who manages to shake some sense into her reluctant beau. Her appearance in the second half of the movie gives it a much needed heft and we are left in awe of this sweet, sprightly girl who is so comfortable in her skin.
While the movie’s preoccupation with issues of weight and baldness can be cumbersome, what actually works for it are instances of genuine humour, specially in the family dynamics of the Kohlis. Here credit needs to be given to Atul Kumar and Grusha Kapoor who play Chaman’s parents for turning in excellent performances. Kumar, in particular as the desperate father who tries to steer his son to Tinder to find a suitable match is a hoot!
The message about accepting oneself with all of ones’ drawbacks is a bit diluted, and the way the hero is portrayed as having an abrupt change of heart towards the end of the movie is not convincing enough. The family astrologer, a guruji, played by Saurabh Shukla, whose dire prediction that Chaman will remain a bachelor if he doesn’t get hitched by the age of 31, turns the whole focus of the movie and the leading man, who till then had no interest in marriage, to finding ironically enough a “beautiful” (read not overweight) wife.
Ujda Chaman might have missed its mark as far as evoking empathy towards those who suffer from hair loss is concerned but what really works for the movie is that it provides some genuine laughs along the way and the supporting cast does an admirable job and that together with an authentic Delhi setting gives you a pleasant enough 2 and a half hours at the movie.
Director: Abhishek Pathak
Cast: Sunny Singh, Maanvi Gagroo, Karishma Sharma, Saurabh Shukla, Atul Kumar, Grusha Kapoor
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