Written and Directed by Pan Nalin
Watching this near-flawless fable of a film-fixated boy from a town in Gujarat a second time, I thought of how close the magic of moviemaking and the wondrous appeal of movie viewing are brought in Pan Nalin’s film.
First things first, Chhello Show bears no resemblance to the Italian film Cinema Paradiso, apart from the kinship of cinema and food that grows between our 9-year protagonist Samay (Bhavin Rabari) and the projectionist Fazal (Bhavesh Srimali) of a dilapidated single theatre which has seen better days.
Samay has not seen any better days than these. He has just discovered the magic of cinema in the rickety projection room of Galaxy cinema in a godforsaken backwater town called Chalala. The Gujarati town is sure to acquire a touristic fame after this film.
Everything and everyone associated with this bitter-sweet ode to the rites of passage are destined for immortality. The brilliance of Chhello Show is difficult to grasp all at once. It is an exceptional synthesis of stillness and turmoil as seen through the film projector by a boy who is destined to be a renowned filmmaker (Pan Nalin?).
With no acting experience behind him, Bhavin Rabari’s large expressive eyes convey a wealth of searching probing questions on how cinema works and how the world outsider his bucolic oyster works. This is a drama of moments, of a silently stolen time. And it is no coincidence that the protagonist is named Samay in this timeless film that takes every cineaste in the world to the magic of those moving images on the silver screen.
It is hard to describe the sheer brilliance of Chhello Show when almost every moment is an aesthetic reclamation of a time when it was only about telling a good story. Swapnil S. Sonawane’s camera captures the unspoilt beauty of the lush rural landscape and the rail tracks that pierce through the virgil tranquility.
Every frame is simply magical. All the untrained little actors who are part of Samay’s boygang deserve on Oscar each. As for Richa Meena and Deepen Ravel as Samay’s parents, they are so right in their moves it seems they never lived anywhere but in Chalala.
The film will leave you deeply satisfied and very very hungry, why hungry? I am not telling. Just go see this delightful delicious drama of discovering the magic within you.