Director: Hansal Mehta
Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Nushrat Bharucha, Jatin Sarna, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Saurabh Shukla, Satish Kaushik, Ila Arun, Baljinder Kaur
It’s a story about Mahinder Singh aka Montu (Rajkummar Rao) who is a shirker from scene one. He is a PT instructor, a job that he gets because of his father. He may not know his job but he very well knows how to be a hooligan as he goes on moral policing and thereby misbehaving with couples hanging out in a park. But wait, that’s not the story. It’s a story about him falling in love with Neelima (Nushrat Bharucha) who happens to be the daughter of the couple he insults as a part of his conservative squad’s punishment. No, it’s a love triangle actually as Inder Mohan Singh (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) comes in the picture as the sincere physical education teacher in the same school where Montu and Neelima teach. Neelima, who knows how Montu behaved with her parents, starts liking him and in some time, we see her showering attention on Singh. And soon the narrative becomes about a competition between the two PT instructors and then it shapes into a multi-sports contest.
Well, the first hour or so will keep you guessing what the narrative is really about as it keeps drifting just like the lead character Montu and from there on it’s any sports drama that you have seen in the past. Set in a small town of Haryana, the movie has nothing fresh to offer. The heavy Haryanvi lingo gets jarring at times and even with no defined theme, you can predict the movie. If at points it advocates women empowerment, it contradicts itself by calling a woman a match that needs to be won. When there is hint of focus on being sincere about your job, that’s because a Haryanvi is led by his ego. It looks like the writers (Luv Ranjan, Aseem Arrora and Zeishan Quadri) could not concur on one idea and the conflict reflects in the story over all. Quite unlike Hansal Mehta, who has delivered meaningful tales like Shahid, Simran and Aligarh, this can easily be called his weakest.
Performance wise, Rajkummar Rao should explore roles other than playing the repetitive small-town boy. Nushrat’s character is not etched well but she delivers what’s asked of her, minus the put-on Haryanvi accent. Replete with clichés, it is the supporting cast or should we say the method actors that bring a breath of fresh air. Saurabh Shukla, Satish Kaushik, Ila Arun and even Baljinder Kaur are all believable and so natural. The one who deserves applause is Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub. This one should bring him to limelight since he knows his job but hasn’t got his due. Challaang, a leap in English, is merely a leap of faith with many loose ends.