A trip down the retro lane!

Manpriya Singh

We don’t know how long do first impressions last, but sometimes they are hardly lasting. As the initial few minutes of Chaman Bahaar, currently airing on Netflix, will mislead you to believe, it’s hardly a trip down the retro memory lane, despite the audience being reintroduced to a typical roadside paan shop, small-town gaming parlours, barber shops, and local bazaars as the Akashvani’s Raipur Kendra plays the likes of the title song from the film Saudagar.

A local shop becomes a hub for young men taken with the new neighbour. The business booms and how, when the stalkers come after the school girl riding a scooty. Or, when she is in and out for tuitions or to walk her dog. What the girl thinks about her stalkers doesn’t matter. The only time the central female character in the film commands respect is when the roadside Romeos come to fight over whose bhabi she is. But that’s pretty much settled. In a small town, it’s often the guy with political connections and the one who sponsors stooges in the name of friends. Rinku Ninoria is the, ‘half-pant wearing school going adolescent who has shaken up the boys of the town’.

The protagonist Billu, who owns the paan shop, is naturally the first to spot her but thanks to her ‘shorts’, he finds himself in the last quarter of a long queue comprising those born and brought up to believe in male entitlement. He nevertheless stocks a few Dairy Milks, daydreaming of her and hoping for a meet-cute. Things take a serious turn, as they often do when an underage girl is involved! Cinematography can’t save a film. However, the background props are well placed and well researched.

The only redeeming factor is Jitendra Kumar, owning every bit of the article in his makeshift shop to the every line handed over to his character Billu. “Humko sher chittah ka dar nahi hai, par bhalu…” he says to his father, who accuses him of not keeping the job

in the forest department, “Bhalu ke dar se naukri chod di.” But collectively nothing can salvage the film, which even at a crisp run time of one hour and 50 minutes is a drag. Pretty much like the borrowed puffs shared by a group of broke hooligans stalking the girl and hanging out at the paan shop right in front of her house.

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