Chumbak Movie Review - Minimalist, magnetic

By Mayank Shekhar

Chumbak Movie Review: This is, at its core, a humanist drama, delving into some basic moral dilemmas- something that art is capable of, although only sometimes in a dark hall with a flickering screen before us.

Chumbak
Drama
Director: Sandeep Modi
Cast: Swanand Kirkire, Sahil Jadhav
Rating: 

The last time I watched a minimalist drama, wholly centred on a necklace—Dileesh Pothan's Malayalam masterpiece Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum (2017)—it turned out to be, arguably, the best thing Indian I'd seen that year. Sure, Chumbak, in Marathi, equally magnetic, with its heart in the right place (to the left, that is), also with a plot hovering around a gold-chain, doesn't quite compare. But then, again, I don't think the idea is to compare anyway.

For one, the director is a first-timer, and you're already pleasantly surprised, watching a debutant with consummate skills to wholly hold your attention, with such a simple feature, about two teenaged kids (Sahil Jadhav Sangram Desai: extremely natural performers), and a mentally challenged old man (Swanand Kirkire, in fine form), whose lives get entwined in ways that at least the children could not have imagined.

This is, at its core, a humanist drama, delving into some basic moral dilemmas—something that art is capable of, although only sometimes in a dark hall with a flickering screen before us. We're looking at certain essentialist questions like: Is it incumbent upon everyone to be nice to us, if we've been nice to them?

As the more matured boy in the picture puts it,"If we don't harm a snake, should/does it not bite us (if he has to)?” Going further still, how different is business—which is based on profits, derived from selling a product to an individual at a much higher value than its worth—any different from cheating?

The main boy in the movie, a Mumbai street irregular—although older and better-off than the slum-kids in the M Manikandan's stellar Tamil film, Kaaka Muttai (2015); which was also remade in Marathi as Half Ticket—basically grapples with an inner-voice, when circumstances hardly allow him such luxury.

He has only a few days to raise quite a few thousands to save his juice-shop back in the village. His job as an Udipi-type restaurant waiter is hardly to going to help him achieve such a short-term financial goal. He invests his personal savings in a grow-rich-overnight sorta fund called Kamadhenu Dhanalakshmi Platinum Dream—and I'm naming it so, because it sounds so much like such a scheme, with the exact same name, actually exists! Probably does/did. Of course the boy loses all he has.

Watch the trailer of Chumbak:

Should this prod him to initiate a similar fraud of his own? It could. Do experiences/motivations of a similar nature explain a low-trust society we inhabit? Can't—there are all kinds of people (rich, poor, good, bad, ugly); and most of them probably still remain conscientious, for the rest to fearlessly exist/survive.

As importantly, for the film: Does it manage to ignite such thoughts in your head, while staying so bare-bone in its execution, and focused in its story-telling? Yes. More importantly (for the movie), how would it compare against Mission Impossible playing at the big-screen next-door? Won't, of course.

I watched Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum much after its release on (OTT platform) Hotstar, which is the kind of permanent Internet outlet (like Netflix, Amazon, etc), where films like Chumbak will find eternal reccos/re-runs/viewership. Be that as it may, since you may not wish to wait that long, this is just to let you know exactly where to head.

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