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regular-article-logo Thursday, 13 June 2024

Chhello Show (Last Film Show) is director Pan Nalin’s ode to the magic of cinema

Starring Bhavin Rabari, Dipen Raval, Richa Meena and Bhavesh Shrimali, Chhello Show is India’s official entry to the 2022 Academy Awards

Sameer Salunkhe Calcutta Published 17.10.22, 02:01 PM
A still from Chhello Show.

A still from Chhello Show. IMDB

Movies about making movies are special. Exuding nostalgia and charm, they often take you to a bygone era. Chhello Show (Last Film Show) is Pan Nalin’s love letter to the last gasp of the celluloid era, which got replaced by digital technology at the dawn of the 2000s.

The movie is a semi-autobiographical take on Nalin’s falling in love with cinema. A Google search tells me Pan Nalin is, in fact, Nalinkumar Pandya. The film has his credit as ‘A Pan Nalin Flight’. And it takes off well and ensures a safe landing. You do feel a tad sad when that journey ends.

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Samay (aptly named, means time) is a little boy from a remote village called Chalala, Kathiawad (Saurashtra in Gujarat). His father takes him to watch a film in a small town. The family has to travel by train to go to a movie theatre — it’s love at first sight for Samay. He falls for the light that comes out of the film projector. The lingering thought of the film is that through that magic light emerges stories and through stories emerge films.

Last Film Show will definitely be compared with Cinema Paradiso, which was a far more accomplished political film. But you can get over that fact if you stay invested in Samay’s naivety. He befriends the theatre’s projectionist by sharing his tiffin with him. Samay doesn’t feel hungry or thirsty anymore because immersed in the experience of watching films. The projectionist teaches him the nitty-gritties of film projection and the little boy is quick to learn.

Samay has to fight a family, school, and the sheer distance he has to travel to reach that movie theatre every day just so that he can watch a film. It doesn’t matter that Jodha Akbar and Khuda Gawaah are played repeatedly. Samay forms his own gang of friends who turn up as his crew as he creates his own film-screening experience. I won’t delve into details because all these sequences are better experienced than described on paper.

Pan Nalin’s humour is delightful and the frames are poetry in motion. Of course, it’s impossible to match the iconic frames of young Toto from Cinema Paradiso looking at the big screen or the reel in his hands. But Samay looking at the movies is endearing and enchanting on its own merit. I clapped (softly) throughout the sequence where Samay creates a movie experience with kids his age.

Bhavin Rabari as Samay is brilliant. His innocence and confidence blend beautifully. Dipen Rawal as Samay’s father, Richa Meena as Samay’s mother and Bhavesh Shrimali as the projectionist Fazal are impressive as well.

Pan Nalin takes his own sweet time to indulge in his storytelling, but it never seems overindulgence. And even if he had got carried away for a few more minutes, I wouldn’t have minded at all. If you love movies or just like them, find a seat in the theatre and get ready for this Pan Nalin flight.

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