'Chaman Bahaar' review: A modest version of 'Kabir Singh'
It's 2020 and the least one could expect was to see no more movies that may remind them of the disaster that was Kabir Singh. But given the nature of this year, that obviously was too much to ask for. Jitendra Kumar's new Netflix film Chaman Bahaar not only greenlits toxic male gaze, but is also insufferably boring. Here's our review.
A young lad, a paan shop, and lack of luck
Billu (Jitendra) quits his job as a forest guard in a remote town of Chhattisgarh, because he wants to make his "own identity". His idea? To open a paan shop. He goes on to start the shop, but luck escapes him. The district limits are changed and his shop's location suddenly becomes deserted. Hence, he barely has any customers to entertain.
Billu's life and business soon change for better
But Billu's life and business soon change for better when a new family shifts into the house across the road, which is the only property near the shop. That's because the girl in the family, Rinku (Ritika Badiani) is the new crush for the entire town. So, Chaman Bahaar, i.e., Billu's shop becomes the new hangout spot for all the boys of the town.
Men of all ages queue up at Chaman Bahaar
From the local casanova of sorts to Rinku's schoolteacher, everyone in the town has a thing for her. Meanwhile, Billu's business booms. His shop is abuzz with men of all ages, all the time. Unpredictably, their discussions revolve around Rinku's "half-pants" and how fast she rides her scooty. But little do they know that Billu is a more determined lover than any of them.
All you gender-sensitive folks, drive away!
These are characters who know nothing about Rinku, but are ready for bloodshed in her name. And then there is Billu, whose obsession knows no bounds. Even if this film doesn't celebrate their toxic behavior, it still lets them get away with it. So, anyone who has a tiny bit of respect for the other gender (and good cinema) is bound to feel cringey.
And then, it is painfully stretched and boring
Even though entertainment is no compensation for problematic narratives like misogyny and toxic male gaze, it can at least make the ordeal a little tolerable. But Chaman Bahaar fails its viewers in that department as well. Even at 110 minutes, the movie makes you wish for it to pass faster. In this film, fun is as rare as Billu's customers on a bad day.
Jitendra is terrific, but not enough to save the film
Jitendra is to Chaman Bahaar what a mirage is to a desert. He puts such an inspired and heartfelt performance, that he seems like the only source of meaning in this film, which is otherwise filled with nothingness. But it's a tragedy that even he can't save this film or even make it watchable. In short, the film does not deserve him.
To watch or not to watch?
Chaman Bahaar commits a number of sins it can't be forgiven for. For one, it gives a shameless nod to obsessive male gaze. On top of that, it makes for a harrowing watch. And then it utterly wastes the talent of Jitendra and supporting actors like Alam Khan. This film is beyond redemption. Final rating: 1.5/5 stars.