'Atkan Chatkan': Scrap-beating virtuoso makes noise, loses to same-old story
Since ages, Bollywood has been peddling mediocre music and worthless item songs. So when one learns of a Sivamani-AR Rahman collaboration for a film, that information in itself sounds like music to ears. And when you start watching Atkan Chatkan on ZEE5, you do get back on the nostalgic trip to listen to those long-lost exhilarating melodies Bollywood has conveniently alienated itself from.
Atkan Chatkan is a retelling of the meteoric rise of a poor musical prodigy. The film is produced by Vishakha Singh and AR Rahman, while Sivamani has composed all the tracks. The film starts with the protagonist Guddu, a reputed percussionist who gets a letter from his long-lost childhood friend and that makes him recall his tumultuous yet musical journey to fame. Flashback time!
The flashback starts with Guddu, then a tea-delivery boy who shuffles his legs and slaps his thighs to make beats when he is not delivering tea. He is innocent, dutiful toward his sister and fears their drunkard father, who spends Guddu's hard-earned money on alcohol. Guddu and his sister miss their mother, who supposedly left their father.
But Guddu loves music. His innocence is taken for a toss by a few members of an orchestra band who lie to him about getting him a job he desperately wants just to be close to those musical instruments. He loses his livelihood unless one kind member of the same band introduces him to a scrap factory owner. Guddu builds his drumkit from refuse.
Understandably, the film hinges on percussion. Sivamani goes carefully rhythmic, letting only the foot-tapping but easy drum rolls for Guddu, played by Chennai piano prodigy Lydian Nadhaswaram, to replicate almost to perfection on screen. He bumps into beggar siblings Chuttan (Sachin Chaudhary) and Mithi (Tamanna Dipak), who act well. Guddu ropes in his disabled friend Madhav (Yash Rane) to complete their orchestra, 'Atkan Chatkan'.
What stops you from appreciating the musical elements in the film is the lackluster performance by Lydian. This is a casting disaster, as it seems like director Shiv Hare went easy on a Telugu-speaking famous child musician who may have made it to the look test but remains dead-silent whenever it's his turn to emote on screen. But Sachin makes up really good.
On the acting front, Guddu's teacher is played deftly by actor-lyricist Spruha Joshi, who brings out the dilemma between her personal struggle and the child orchestra's training. Amitriyaan Ami, on the other hand, shouts and often breaks his way hopelessly out of the menacing drunkard daddy role. The film mixes Abhimaan's plot with Udaan's chasing scene and Swades's Aahista Aahista vibe hastily and confusingly.
It's a predictable storyline that makes you want to call it a watered-down version of the legendary musical flick August Rush. With similar instances of child exploitation and troubled parenthood, Atkan Chatkan floats only because of Sivamani's tracks, with Nar Ho sung by Uthara Unnikrishnan being particularly praiseworthy. Atkan Chatkan is a light-headed one-time watch that gets 3 out of 5 stars for simplicity.