‘Dream Girl’ (2019) Movie Review: Ayushmann Khurrana’s brilliance doesn’t save this film

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There is always a feeling that the film might get better at any stage. But that’s never the case. It’s the other way round.

A man imitating a blind. A police chief heading investigations on rape cases and caste discrimination. A man, in his twenties, utterly surprised to know that his mother is pregnant. A guy becoming a father of many by donating his sperm. These are, and many more, the avatars donned by Ayushmann Khurrana in his films. The actor has made a name for himself as a guy who does all those off-beat roles and has, more often than not, come out on top. Ayushmann has this knack of making the characters that he plays look supremely engaging. He plays the role of most sought-after ‘girl’ by the men and women in Dream Girl (not to be confused with Dream Girl that released in 1977). As a character that juggles between being a man (Karam) and a woman (Puja), he looks convincing in this film. But that doesn’t save the film from going through these phases – Bad, Worse and Ugly.

We are so close and yet so far – which is basically what Director Raaj Shaandilyaa’s Dream Girl is addressing. It points out the problem of loneliness. It highlights the lessening distances as well as the widening gap between each one of us in this connected world. But to make you realise this scenario and talk more intensively about this, the film doesn’t have a great narrative at its disposal. It tries a lot of comedy. A very few dialogues do seem humorous. (In a scene, Karam, impersonating as Puja on a phone call, indignantly clarifies that he is not a Taj Mahal but a Qutub Minar). But almost every other scene, that tries to be hilarious, turns out to be annoying and frustrating. It, then, resorts to throwing in some romance where the love between Karam and Mahi (Nushrat Bharucha) never seem to be of any relevance and vanishes into thin air. There’s always a song featuring in several films in Bollywood, if not all, to keep its audience entertained and engrossed. Dream Girl has it too. Radhe Radhe, in the composition of Meet Bros, that comes towards the end, is captivating and energetic to listen but doesn’t help the movie’s cause.

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The film also has plenty of other characters who, apart from Vijay Raaz who plays a drunkard-talking-poetry, neither seem interesting nor funny even though they try to. It’s Ayushmann who holds you tight right until the end. There is always a feeling that the film might get better at any stage. But that’s never the case. It’s the other way round.

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‘Pink’ Movie Review: A gripping drama on consensual sex

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Source: Times Music | YouTube

Pink is one of the greatest courtroom dramas that you will ever see. It is focussed and heartrending.

You know how it is” says a male office boss with a sorry look. “Yes, I do know how it is” replies a crestfallen and shocked Falak (Such a brilliant performance by Kirti Kulhari in this role). A fake, indecent photo of hers has been doing the rounds in the whole office. She has felt greatly humiliated by this as she never did any of this sort in the first place. The scene showed how painful it is for a woman when she is wrongly accused. Pink is Director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s answer to misconceptions that a lot of men have vis-à-vis women. The film is a masterpiece which shows what a woman goes through when she is harassed, molested, sexually assaulted, and is forced to accept the cruel world without raising questions. 

Pink is one of the greatest courtroom dramas that you will ever see. It is focussed and heartrending. It sarcastically explains women’s safety manual that has instructions on the Dos and Don’ts for the women so that men don’t get the false idea of their consent for sex. It’s Deepak Sehgal (A spellbinding performance from Amitabh Bachchan for this character), a lawyer, through which the film presents its case and that too with such perfection (Not to forget the arresting act by Piyush Mishra who plays a lawyer as well in this film). The film shows you how Deepak defends the case for three women – Minal (Taapsee Pannu’s fantastic act for this character makes you really feel the agony), Andrea (herself), and Falak – on whom the complaint has been filed stating that they solicited some men and ended up causing grave injury to one of them (The soliciting part is so tremendously portrayed that it hurts you to see these women being shown in a wrong light).

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Source: Times Music | YouTube

The film highlights a male chauvinist society where women are made the scapegoat in a lot of problems. (Falak’s unsympathetic boyfriend presumes that Minal is a girl of questionable character. In response, Falak, with utter sadness, says that she hoped to receive some warmth from him and not advice.) The film shows that there are men who still consider women as weaker sex (A guy, in a cafeteria, says to Falak, “Tum vaise bhi ladki ho” (You are anyway a woman)). It also hurts you when Pink makes you realise that even a “natural human behaviour” of women is perceived wrongly by some men. Or, even her choice of living with her friends and not with family is put under the scanner.

But again it goes without saying that this world is also replete with good people. There are male characters in the film who stand as a pillar of support to these women in times of distress. Andrea’s boyfriend comforts her and applauds her for being “brave”. The landlord Kasturilal (Vinod Nagpal) remains supportive to these women and never doubts them.

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Source: Times Music | YouTube

With so many different layers in the film, you never actually get to see the sexual assault incident happening until the closing credits. But the incident is talked about with such intensity that just imagining it makes you feel pity for the girls who suffered. The music does its trick too to match the mood of the film (Kaari Kaari song, in the composition of Shantanu Moitra, sung by Qurat-ul-Ain Balouch, comes twice in the movie and blends beautifully well with the emotional scenes).

When I first watched the film back in 2016, I felt that the importance of the film and its relevance to the real-world situation was sky-high. I watched it again recently as a Tamil remake of this movie – Nerkonda Paarvai – thronged the theatres last week. Pink still felt so fresh and riveting. This story demands such a remake. It needs to be told in different languages. Pink is not just a great story on consensual sex where a simple “no” from your girlfriend, wife or even a sex-worker forbids you from having sex with them. But it is also told in a way that it engrosses you, thrills you and astonishes you all at the same time.

‘Mission Mangal’ Movie Review: A fantastic tribute to India’s first-ever Mars mission where dreams became a reality

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Source: Fox Star Hindi | YouTube

Mission Mangal does justice to one of the most influential and eye-opening achievements in the history of space research.

Rakesh Dhawan (Akshay Kumar) and Tara Shinde (Vidya Balan), the lead scientists supervising India’s historic Mars mission, have taken inspiration from home science, managed to get the necessary approvals and the resources, and incorporated everything in the rocket science that they know so well. Mission Mangal (Mission Mars) is Director Jagan Shakti’s ambitious and meticulously written project that not just feels sweet but also tastes bitter. Jagan knows that we are apprehensive of the fact that the success of Mangalyaan (Mars Orbiter Mission) drawn accolades from the entire globe and we may have doubts whether the film will resort to more of glorification than the struggles. Jagan makes sure that Mission Mangal is not that sort of a film. He lends it an equal share of both the moments where we don’t just feel dejected by the failures, embarrassments and difficulties but also feel proud and rejoice over the triumphs.

There is ‘hope’ in the background music (composed by Amit Trivedi) as it perfectly enhances the spirit of being alive in the mission. You feel astonished by the intelligence of the scientists in whom, amidst every other obstacle, sparks innovative ideas while cooking Puri or looking at people protesting against plastic dumps in the ocean or even while staring at a picture of sailing craft on a throw pillow. When you think about India and its space programs, the very first name that may come to your mind is Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. The film does honour him. And when it does, it may give you goosebumps. Even the close shots of the rocket when it is being set up on the launch site or smoke engulfing a part of it or the hopeful faces of scientists were so brilliantly shown (All credits to the cinematographer Ravi Varman).

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Source: Fox Star Hindi | YouTube

Akshay gives the mixture of seriousness, staying-calm-under-pressure and mirthfulness to Rakesh’s character. But it’s the hilarity that works so well. In a humorous scene, he calmly enters inside a poorly maintained building, calls it Mars, finds the availability of little water and even claims the presence of life. He even asks a guy to place a television over his head. And when a guy asks Rakesh if this is Mars department, he says, “Hum bhi yahi soch ke khade hain” (We are also standing here thinking the same). Also watch out for Akshay’s Tamil-language speaking skills in the film.

The women in this movie always take the centre stage and are as much an important part of the film as the real women scientists were for the success of this Mars mission (You also have to appreciate the wonderful ensemble cast with each of them raising the bar higher when it comes to performance). You are also not alien to the personal lives of these characters. You do care about them. Outside of this mission, they have their own problems to take care of. You root for Eka Gandhi (Sonakshi Sinha) and her colleague Parmeshwar (Sharman Joshi) to be together. Tara’s amazing calmness while managing her husband, son and daughter speak volumes of Vidya Balan’s stupendous act. The sadness and disappointment in Varsha (Nithya Menen) are noticeable when her mother-in-law angrily scolds her for not getting pregnant. The driving lessons taken by Kritika (Taapsee Pannu) are chucklesome. You feel the agony of Neha (Kirti Kulhari) when she is denied a house for rent as she is a Muslim (While there is a work going on to find habitable planets in the space, some of us belonging to the ‘most intelligent’ species on Earth still follow a divisive design).

Of course, there is always someone who tries to close all the doors and be pessimistic about everything. There is Rupert (Dalip Tahil) in this film to do that. Dalip fantastically lends that villainous feel to this Rupert character. But the determination of Tara and a ‘change’ in the attitude of the scientists (one of the loveliest sequence where scientists realise why they chose to be in the field of science in the first place) ultimately spell the victory. Well, the film could have done without a weird fight sequence inside a train or a scientists-jovially-dancing-to-the-tune-of-a-song (Probably, the only two things that didn’t work for me). But, other than that, the film does justice to one of the most influential and eye-opening achievements in the history of space research.

‘Mehsampur’ Movie Review: A film that feels like abstract art

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Source: Film Tribe | YouTube

This is an unprecedented style of filmmaking in the Indian Cinema and, definitely, a work brimming with brilliance.

(Thanks to Jagran Film Festival Delhi 2019 for the screening of this gem of a film)

In this film, death is imminent. And it doesn’t befall characters because of natural causes. It’s because the actions of the characters do not get approval by the masses. They do keep going for a while with little support. But, eventually, they succumb to a tragic end. Director Kabir Singh Chowdhry’s Mehsampur intends to explore the life of a Punjabi singer named Amar Singh Chamkila through Devrath (Devrath Joshi) and trace the events that resulted in the assassination of Chamkila.

Chamkila had more haters than supporters for the controversies he gave rise to. It was in Mehsampur where he breathed last. It is the enigma surrounding his death that propels Devrath, who is a filmmaker, to traverse difficult terrain and find everything about Chamkila at all costs to make a film on him. As Devrath goes about his business, you keep your options open and keep pondering over if the film is a documentary or a docu-fiction as it never settles on to one. This transition which Kabir lends to this drama is something that you really have to experience yourself. This is an unprecedented style of filmmaking in the Indian Cinema and, definitely, a work brimming with brilliance.

The film gives you a psychedelic experience. You randomly get to see flashes of old, blurred, muted videos of Chamkila performing on a stage. Sometimes, it looks like the camera was being vigorously shaken while a few of the scenes were being shot. There are noisy, eerie visuals of a combine harvester moving through a field of crops (When this combine harvester appears again towards the end, it’s astonishing to realise the significance of this seemingly-irrelevant-noisy-shot-at-first). There’s a guy singing at a bar and, weirdly enough, as he tries to express his emotions through the song, you can’t help but think if he’s drugged.

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Source: Film Tribe | YouTube

The interviews that Devrath conducts with people who knew Chamkila were not short of sidesplitting comedy instances. You see Devrath asking a guy to repetitively act like a drunkard throwing a stone in a busy street. You see him getting annoyed by a singer as she, instead of telling him anything about Chamkila, starts singing a song instead. Devrath, also, doesn’t stop from recording everything when he has got an opportunity to interview someone. So, when he interviews Lal Chand (a guy who survived and escaped from Chamkila’s assassination scene), he can’t help but take a close-shot of Lal Chand’s inner thigh on his camcorder from the ground level.

Only thing that didn’t work for me was the character arc of Manpreet (Navjot Randhawa) with whom Devrath has had a sexual relationship. But the praise must be given to the scene where intercourse happens between the two which was so realistically and perfectly shot arousing the sexual feelings inside you.

Even though this Manpreet’s character plays a bit of a spoilsport at the later stages of the movie, Director Kabir’s extraordinary filmmaking skills come to the fore and mostly overpower the dampness created by that character. Mehsampur is a change that you need amidst the swarm of poorly executed, mundane big-budget films. It’s the never-before-seen thingy. Kabir makes sure that you have one more example at hand to show the world why movies are one of the greatest forms of art.

Chalne Do Movie Review: An intelligent film infused with seductions, love-affair and betrayal

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Source: Anticlock Films | Youtube

It’s the Utsav Banerjee’s intelligent screenplay along with Nikunj’s vision that makes this one of the greatest films I have ever seen.

(Thanks to 10th Jagran Film Festival Delhi 2019 for the screening of this remarkable film)

The power of the longest dissertation is in its in-depth coverage. Sometimes even a small piece of writing can be more meaningful and insightful than a longer counterpart. Director Nikunj Rathod’s Chalne Do (Keep Going) is a 42-minute feature film that, considering its short running time, comes bundled with plenty on offer. Nikunj’s brilliance comes to the fore when we start realising that the number ‘two’ is deeply ingrained in the film in different forms and makes it all the more impressive.

To begin with, the entire movie is in black and white colours. The title of the film has two words- ‘Chalne’ and ‘Do’. And these two words don’t appear on the screen together. ‘Chalne’ appears first and after a few scenes, ‘Do’ comes on to the screen (When ‘Do’ does make an appearance, you marvel at its timing and the relevance it accompanies with the film’s story). The use of Schrödinger’s cat, a thought experiment that shows two different possibilities, amazes you when you understand its relevance with the film’s narrative. There are two titular characters in the film – Saathya (Ruchita Tahiliani arrests you with her exemplary performance in this character) and Roop (Rahaao lends an engrossing act in this role).

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Source: Anticlock Films | Youtube

As the film tries to establish a relationship between Saathya and Roop, their two different sides get uncloaked. Saathya is trying to create a balance between her reel life aspirations and real life. She, in a scene, says that there’s a good person as well as a bad person dwelling inside everyone but people only see you as either a good or a bad person. As the film goes on to reveal two such different shades of Rahaao, you wonder at how marvellously Nikunj has shown Saathya, who’s in need of a companion, has failed to notice the negative side of Rahaao. When you think of it, the literal meaning of Saathya (which is, a companion or a friend) and Roop (which is, a form) aptly suit the respective characters (Hats off to Nikunj).

The romance between Saathya and Roop, as they go out for a walk on a rainy night and stick close to each other under an umbrella, is beautiful to watch. The tricks played by Saathya, in Roop’s presence, is seductive. The best moment, in this love angle, comes when Saathya is standing on the beach and Roop slowly walks towards her. The camera captures her from the ground level so that the full moon in the night sky is visible (Ah! What a sight that makes in this black and white setting).

It’s the Utsav Banerjee’s intelligent screenplay along with Nikunj’s vision that makes this one of the greatest films I have ever seen.

‘Judgementall Hai Kya’ Movie Review: A mind-bending and thrilling film that presents male violence against women with a whole new approach

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You acquiesce to the brilliance of Dhillon’s superlative writing and allow the film to unfurl the answers to your questions all by itself.

As the film begins and accreditations to the cast and crew appear on the screen, you get to see origami made out of newspaper cut-outs. Each of them accompanies itself with grim headlines about rape or domestic violence by men against women. Reading such headlines (for instance, a father burnt her daughter alive) unsettles you.

Director Prakash Kovelamudi’s Judgementall Hai Kya isn’t exactly a film about a woman suffering under male dominance or violence. It’s a complex story that traverses different paths and confuses you in the process before finally presenting a ‘big reveal’ (Be prepared to be amazed when that happens). It’s about a woman trying to save another woman from the grasp of a man who is disguised as a different person. It’s also about a man trying to save his wife from falling prey to false claims of another woman. There’s a constant pursuit of finding the real accused who killed an innocent woman. Amidst all of this, there are women in the film who fall victim to a man’s cruelty as he burns them alive and enjoys their shrieks.

The two main characters in the film are Bobby (Kangana Ranaut) and Keshav (Rajkummar Rao). Bobby has a mental disorder called “acute psychosis” as a doctor explains in the film. Bobby’s so-called boyfriend, Varun (Hussain Dalal), explains, in layman’s terms, that she has “complexes” in her mind. Ever since she was a small girl, she has shown particular attention towards helpless women being bogged down by men’s brutality. It is this propensity towards women’s sufferings that makes her collect newspaper clippings on such news and make origami out of them. She winds up meeting Keshav as he, along with his wife (played by Amyra Dastur whose sensual scenes, in particular, with Rajkummar Rao were outstanding), rent a house of which Bobby is the landlord. Keshav’s character doesn’t give you a clear perception of what he’s like. Sometimes he is shown to be a good husband who is affectionate towards his wife. But you also get to see him doing peculiar things, which even Bobby notices, and make you believe he might not be a good person and hiding a villainous side of him. Things start turning topsy-turvy when Bobby gets “obsessed” with Keshav. She not only develops a feeling of lust towards Keshav but also gathers doubts if he’s intending to kill his wife.

The film, then, leaves you startled, as the events that follow tests your ability to guess who’s the killer and who’s the saviour. Well, the credit goes to Kanika Dhillon’s fantastic writing, of course, for lending the film this absolute power of surprising you at all instances and never allowing you to settle down or have a sigh of relief. You always juggle between your assumptions based on different evidence that the film produces at every stage. After a while, you acquiesce to the brilliance of Dhillon’s superlative writing and allow the film to unfurl the answers to your questions all by itself. In short, just let Bobby do the judgement. The amazing background score and the horror-film-like feel makes the film even more thrilling.

The comedy instances involving Varun and Bobby were especially hilarious. Varun, in a scene, tries to convince Bobby that it’s about time they get married and have sex. Bobby replies childishly saying that they are doing exactly what married couples do, that is, buy groceries together. Varun also constantly complains of being “used” by her. He, evoking gales of laughter, reveals that the condom, he had in his pocket for so long with the hope of having sex with her, has “expired” without being used.

There are some minor loopholes felt in the film. There’s a character called Megha (Amrita Puri) who is pregnant in the film. She has escaped a life-threatening situation and lost her husband. But she doesn’t show any kind of consternation in her countenance (She calmly says thanks to Bobby). In another scene, Bobby, after an attacker slits her wrists, gets admitted in a hospital. She escapes from the hospital and all of a sudden, despite her poor health, manages to appear at Megha’s doorstep, in an outfit, that represents an Indian mythological figure. There’s another scene where Keshav is being interrogated by a couple of policemen. Keshav dissuades them from charging anything against him. His efforts of proving his innocence before policemen, where he bewails the loss of his wife, feel superficial and devoid of emotions as if the whole act is purposely done for the audience to catch something uncanny there. Don’t bother if you see policemen failing to notice that. A film that has so many unexpected turns could have done away with such an attempt. With that being said, the film’s narrative is so abundant with surprises and mind-boggling scenes, these little loopholes seem trivial. The film can’t have made such an impact if not for exemplary acts from Rajkummar Rao and Kangana Ranaut. If you are in the mood for a rollicking, engrossing, funny and a mind-blowing film, then Judgementall Hai Kya is for you.

Chintu Ka Birthday Movie Review: A moving tale of a family, in search of happier times, getting into undue trouble

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Source: Jagran Film Festival

Chintu Ka Birthday is a film which seeks to find happiness amidst all troubles. In this, the innocence prevails over brutality.

Thanks to Jagran Film Festival 2019, I was able to watch the ‘India Premiere’ of ‘Chintu Ka Birthday’.

It’s Chintu’s (Vedant Chibber) birthday and his father, Madan (Vinay Pathak is fantastic in this role), has requested his wife, Sudha (Tillotama Shome), to sing a song which she used to sing when Chintu was a new-born baby. So sings Sudha and is joined by Chintu’s grandmother (Seema Bhargava). The family members and their Iraqi landlord, Hassan Mahdi (Khaled Masso lends an amazing performance in this character), find themselves spellbound by the beauty of the song. The euphonious and captivating song soothes your heart too and makes you feel the warmth and gladness.

This is one of those transient instances in Chintu Ka Birthday, directed by Devanshu Singh and Satyanshu Singh, where you get to see this family in a jovial mood and having a nice time together. The duo of Devanshu and Satyanshu decide to explain the problematic situation, which the family is in, through a 6-year-old Chintu. Rightfully so, as Chintu narrates the story, where we get to know how his father came to Iraq to earn a living and eventually brought his family too before the country’s political situation worsened and terrorism started taking the centre-stage, there comes an animated depiction of the entire narration (You can find yourself with a smile on your face during this entire cartoon sequence). The film tells you that the Indian Government has claimed that it has brought back all the Indians from Iraq. Chintu’s family is one of those who are stuck in Iraq with no help.

The film shows one day in the life of Chintu and his family. The plan for celebrating Chintu’s birthday is in full swing. Everyone is making sure that unlike previous years, this year the birthday celebration doesn’t get ruined no matter what. The situation outside doesn’t look promising and Chintu’s sister, Lakshmi (Bisha Chaturvedi), comes back home without a cake. But she makes sure that, with help from her mother, she prepares one herself at home. You see Madan fixing an old oven for the preparation of cake. Even their Iraqi landlord Mahdi sings an Arabic song to Chintu to cheer him up.

A bomb goes off outside their house and that’s when things come to a standstill. It saddens you as the mirthfulness, the family is in, comes to a halt. Two new characters enter the scene at this stage. These are the American soldiers Reed (Nate Scholz) and Jackson (Reginald L. Barnes) who, after the bomb blast, have come to check their house.

It pains you to see what the family goes through. The horror-struck faces of each of the members make you feel how frightened they are. A father, who just wanted to make his son happy, gets harsh treatment from the soldiers. The dejectedness in Lakshmi is palpable as her cake gets burnt in the oven. It hurts you to see one of the soldiers unapologetically removing and tearing off this big paper pasted on the wall that read “Happy Birthday Chintu”. The presence of Iraqi landlord and findings of some DVDs based on terrorist camps at their house doesn’t help their cause too as Madan is presumed to be supporting terrorists.

As the film is shot entirely inside one house, you only get to feel the horrible situation of outsides through one medium – sound. You get to feel that a bomb went off outside the house but do not get to actually see the wreckage. There is a military helicopter flying above the house and you get to sense that through the noise created by its rotor. There is, of course, an instance when the movie does try to show you what it’s like outside the premises of this house. One of the American soldiers steps out of the house to check on the commotion and gets fired at from somewhere before he slips back inside. So, there is always a feeling of terror that the film brilliantly creates.

The few chucklesome instances are well-executed. For instance, in a scene, Madan playfully tells his son that there is a cake waiting for his son as can be seen by his ‘third’ eye. But on Lakshmi’s empty-handed return, Chintu complains about his father’s prediction going wrong. There’s a scene in which Chintu’s friends Waheed (Mehroos Mir) and Zainab (Amina Afroz) pay a visit and Waheed introduces Zainab as Chintu’s girlfriend. Waheed doesn’t just stop there and goes on to greet Jackson, who is African-American, as “nigga”. In another instance, Madan explains the meaning of his name to the soldiers with reference from Kamasutra. Jackson, later on, resorts to calling him by the name of ‘Kamasutra’ itself.

After a long hassle with the soldiers, there comes a moment when the cake is finally being cut by Chintu as the family merrily sing together wishing him a happy birthday. As the balloon, placed above him, bursts and sparkles come pouring down, the sheer excitement in him is discernible. Madan’s earnest wish of celebrating his son’s birthday comes true. Although one of the soldiers watches them celebrate without showing any emotion on his face, it moves you to see them rejoicing together finally. And then, Reed springs a surprise in the end (You need to watch it to really feel it).

As the movie comes to a close, the camera shows a top view as Chintu lies on his bed and looks up. It slowly moves towards him and the movie ends. Chintu is hopeful that troubled times will be long gone by and he might one day be back home in India. Chintu Ka Birthday is a film which seeks to find happiness amidst all troubles. In this, the innocence prevails over brutality.