Ujda Chaman’ is an official remake of 2017 Kannada movie ‘Ondu Motteya Kathe’, is a comedy-drama which primarily talks about a man going through body image issues due to baldness.
Directed by- Abhishek Pathak
Produced by- Kumar Mangat Pathak, Abhishek Pathak
Written by- Danish J Singh
Starring- Sunny Singh, Maanvi Gagroo, Saurabh Shukla, Karishma Sharma
Set in a middle-class family in Rajouri Garden, Ujda Chaman has transported its milieu from Mangalore to West Delhi residence of Rajouri Garden. Chaman Kohli, played by Sunny Singh is a tricenarian Hindi professor – whose hair is sliding faster than his age. And what is adding to his timidity is his quintessential Punjabi family’s obsession with marrying him off before he turns 31 as Jyotish predicted the life of celibacy otherwise.
First and foremost, the film is based on a genuine issue of male pattern baldness, which triggers severe anxiety and depression as a result of self-esteem issues and lack of confidence. The lead hero of the film – Chaman – is a victim of precisely this condition. So far, so good right? I too thought so!
But, the interpretation of this serious subject went entirely out of order. It starts with a boy in his early 30’s struggling with premature baldness, but somehow the struggle dissolves in various deceptive and cultural stereotypes.
New wave cinema is a fad, any film based on a subject which is either challenging the conventions or breaking a stigma becomes a canon of its own. However, to thrive on that, plumping for a question which is paramount and legit – leaving it half-baked – or not cooked at all – with the anticipation to fit into the classification of the particular cinema is just not good enough. And this is where ‘Ujda Chaman’ starts shedding from its follicles.
To understand the plot a better, let us look at ‘Badhai Ho’, where every character has its complexity and depth, dealing with a similar subject which implies all the characters of the narrative, inter-knitted with one another. For example – in ‘Badhai Ho’ Nakul Kaushik played by Ayushman Khurrana has a life of his own with a vicenarian crisis such as girlfriend, corporate job, the discomfort of societal status and so on. His parents, played by Neena Gupta and Gajraj Rao who are somewhere in mid 40’s and 50’s are dealing with issues of being middle-class parents, an ailing mother-in-law and at the same time maintaining their own marital life inside their bedroom. As a consequence, a pregnancy happens and entangles all the characters of the film together. This helps to flush out the complexities of the character even further.
Conversely, in this film, it appears as if not only Chaman but Chaman’s mother, father, neighbours, and so on has no life beyond his baldness. Superficial and boring!
Oh! and despite director and writer’s obsession with Chaman and his baldness, there are other characters as well, such as Apsara Batra, played by Maanvi Gagroo who sketched her role with such grace and poise (like always!). She is the one who makes some sense into this follicle-tale in Chaman’s life and to us. Apart from her, there are some finest theatre actors such as Saurabh Shukla who plays Jyotish, Atul Kumar and Grusha Kapoor as Chaman’s orthodox Punjabi parents. And I must say, all these characters are so fun to watch that you crave to see them more. But, that does not happen since the hero of the story is our Chaman (not so next door) and his baldness.
Besides, mistakenly or unmistakeably, the film seems to be giving in to the idea of society’s perception of what is pretty and what is not. For say, if you are tall and dark – you are handsome if you are fair and lovely – you are beautiful! As shown in one scene where Apsara tells Chaman that “humare pas inner beauty hain” – which directly translates, so what we are oversized and bald, we have inner beauty. Why did you make the film then?
Amidst the problematic films like ‘Kabir Singh’ and ‘Houseful 4’ which overlooked ‘isms’ entirely, this film is an honest attempt. But is an effort enough in today’s Hindi cinema where the audience has tasted films like ‘Andhadhun’ and ‘Badhai Ho’?