Chhello Show aka Last Film Show Movie Review: Dear reader, I bet the first question you want to ask is this - was the IFFI jury right in sending Chhello Show over SS Rajamouli's RRR? Unfortunately I may have to disappoint you here. I really do not want to discuss the merits and demerits of both the movies, but rather focus on the one in question here. That said, I can add a little thought - I do not exactly share the jury's optimism for Chhello Show, and it is truly unfortunate that I had to review this likeable (albeit a little slumbering) film with its Oscars submission controversy keep banging in the back of my mind. Chhello Show aka Last Film Show: All You Need to Know About Pan Nalin's Gujarati Film That Beat RRR to be India's Official Entry for Oscars 2023.

Which brings me to the next obvious question - is Chhello Show inspired by Giuseppe Tornatore's 1988 Italian masterpiece Cinema Paradiso? Well, I could give a clearer answer to this. Yes, there is an inspiration here. Pan Nalin's film does explore about a young boy Samay (Bhavin Rabari) falling in love with cinema from the moment he steps into a local theatre, and there is also this track of his friendship with the projectionist Fazal (Bhavesh Shrimali) forged over the former's mother's delicious food (the movie is in love with how she prepares each dish the same way as Samay is besotted with the frames of Jodha Akbar).

But I believe that's where the similarities end. Chhello Show isn't a flashback story about a filmmaker looking back at his humble beginnings and how cinema (and his local theatre) shaped up his present as seen in Cinema Paradiso. For here, real-life meets reel-life - it is Nalin looking into his own humble past without the need to go into flashback mode. For the uninitiated, Chhello Show is a semi-biographical work of director's own journey from selling tea at a railway station in Gujarat to becoming an acclaimed filmmaker who made movies like Samsara, Valley of Flowers and Angry Indian Goddesses.

Watch the Trailer:

Samay helps his impoverished father (Dipen Raval) sell tea at Chalala, a small railway station in Gujarat. He is a mischievous little boy who loves to hang around with his friends, bet on lions (actual ones), and indulge in some sweet playful indulgence. And yes, Samay ain't that good in studies, but is smart enough. He falls in love with the magic of movies when his father - who looks down upon cinema, like most other Indian fathers - takes his family to a local theatre to watch a movie. Why, because it is a devotional film, and religion is quite the hallucinogen for the masses here.

This local theatre, aptly named 'Galaxy', is quite the embodiment of cinema halls we see in towns and villages, but in the movie, it works as this strange entity that isn't bonded to time and era and even quality. From Karishma Kali Kaa to Khuda Gawah to Jodha Akbar to Phata Poster Nikla Hero to even Apartment (don't remember that? we don't blame you), the movie hall ain't bound by the present time, but it allows Samay (aah... got the name now!) to experience Hindi cinema over the years, even if he is still that kid. The bonding between Samay and Fazal, not alienated by their religious differences which never gets a mention (though Samay's father's caste of being a Brahmin is touched upon), is very heartwarming and likeable, especially the scene where they each impersonate Big B. All the actors are impeccably cast, with of course, Bhavin Rabari owning the show with an impish charm that refuses to quit. Chhello Show: Shah Rukh Khan’s Reference in Pan Nalin's Film, India's Official Entry to Oscars 2023, Goes Viral (View Tweets).

It is not just in the plot where Pan Nalin brings in the magic of cinema, even the way scenes are shot feel like a tribute to the filmmakers he has watched growing up. Near the beginning, there is a scene where a train is shown cruising ahead as the colour palette transition from black-and-white to colour. It feels a nod to the beginning of cinema, when Lumiere Brothers showed the first screening of a train arriving at a station, to its present era. Some of the long frames that shows the immaculate beauty of the village has this Terence Malik-quality. And so on.

The storyline is somewhat predictable for its setting, though; we know at one point, Fazal would have to face the repercussions of living in the digital age. We know that Samay would get a rude awakening at one point of time with regards to his present circumstances. Chhello Show Child Actor Rahul Koli Dies of Cancer.

But where Chhello Show works are in the moments in between. It is hard not to cheer when Samay and his friends end up making their own 'theatre hall', after many trials and tribulations. It is hard not to feel the horror that Samay see what happens to his favourite cinema reels and projector when they are no longer of use to this world. And it is not hard to feel a lump in the throat in the final scene of the movie.

Final Thoughts

Keeping the controversies surrounding the Oscars 2022 brouhaha aside, Chhello Show is a charming little gem from Pan Nalin that absorbs you into the world of Samay and leaves you emotional by the end. You can accuse the film of pandering to the West with its depiction of 'poor' India, but the way I see it, the movie is a story of hope, ingenuity and friendship and of course, an ever-burning fervour for the love of cinema.


(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Oct 13, 2022 01:13 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website