Chhello Show Film Review: A nostalgic story about the love of cinema

chello show offers us a nostalgia-infused story of a boy in rural Gujarat who is entranced and captivated by the power of cinema. It will immediately remind you of the 1988 Italian classic Cinema Paradiso, in which the relationship between a young boy and a middle-aged projectionist was cemented in a small, dark room where the films were being played. ‘Chhello Show’ or ‘The last film screening‘, is also intended to be a semi-autobiographical story by director Pan Nalin, whose journey from a remote Saurashtra village to an image creator is reflected in the film.

Samay (Bhavin Rabari), bright-eyed and curious, wants to be more than just an assistant to his father, who runs a tea shop at the village train station. It’s the sort of cozy stop that used to be part of our travel history, when trains stopped at unnamed outposts for a few minutes to allow passengers to disembark and vendors to sell their wares.

Samay and his friends roam the railroad tracks in search of employment opportunities and find a nearby movie theater that quickly becomes a source of constant joy. Movies aren’t for us unless they’re about deities, thunders Samay’s father, bound by caste privilege that doesn’t protect him from poverty. But Samay, played by the very expressive Rabari, is undeterred. He found the cinema and the cinema found him and it’s forever.

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The film thrives best when we see Samay surrounded by the paraphernalia of cinema in its celluloid age: the projectors, the metal cans that house the spools, the unmistakable hum of the sprockets, the cone of light pouring out of the box, to land on the screen that becomes the sights and sounds of a film, and the audience that turns up day after day to enjoy the experience.

In exchange for spending his day at the movies, the time he was supposed to be at school becomes a barter for home-cooked food. Fazal, the projectionist (Bhavesh Shrimali), licks his fingers while his “upper caste” disciple learns to feel at home in the cinema: the former, being a Muslim and being a mentor is both marginal and powerful because it the art of cinema being shows home of all communities and castes.

But “Chhello Show” has a known problem, and that’s the look, which makes some elements exotic or too pretty. Take the small kitchen in Samay’s cabin, for example, open to the elements but enough for his mother (Richa Meena) to prepare dishes that would be more at home in a master chef’s studio. At one point, the voice actress calls a dish “ravioli.”

Then there is the patina of warm light on each frame that makes village life less austere: the minimal village school, the teacher, the stationmaster, the officials who appear to deliver the deathblow to even the tiny station marks the end of the run-down cinema , which runs 35mm films. A makeshift film that Samay and his friends have conjured up in an abandoned building where they make films out of junk reels is both romantic and romanticized.

But the film, India’s official entry to the Oscars, manages to focus on change as an unstoppable part of life. Just as the brand-new broad-gauge trains no longer stop at the station, the theater including the projection booth, Samay’s place of refuge and learning, is robbed of its furnishings. A small digital box takes the place of the massive projectors. But cinema goes on, embraces the changes and tells us stories.

Chhello Show Film Director: Pan Nalin
Chhello Show Cast: Bhavin Rabari, Richa Meena, Deepen Raval, and Bhavesh Shrimali
Chhello Show Movie Rating: 2.5 stars

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