Mumbai, 14 Oct 2017 11:42 IST
Swanand Kirkire plays a mentally challenged person in a convincing fashion and prevents the character from becoming a caricature.
What happens when a boy, forced to grow up and take on the big bad world, meets a middle-aged man who is too innocent to see the bad in the world?
Chumbak (The Lottery) is the heartwarming story of teenager Balu (Sahil Jadhav) who sets off on a journey of self-discovery with the 40-something Prasanna Thombare (Swanand Kirkire), a man with a mental disability.
Balu aka Balchandra Shewale's only and recurring dream (beautifully shot in vivid colours by director of photography Rangarajan Ramabadran) is to set up a sugarcane juice stand at the newly set-up bus stop in Ambegaon.
He has been waiting tables to save up money for his stand. Unfortunately, he loses his savings to a dubious scheme. A desperate Balu, influenced by his worldly-wise friend Disco (Sangram Desai), decides to con the world to get the money he needs. The one man to fall for his scam turns out to be the mentally challenged Thombare.
The energies of these two diametrically opposite personalities make for two opposing poles of a magnet (and hence, perhaps, the title Chumbak, which means magnet) that attract each other as does the constant tussle between right and wrong.
Balu begins to switch between the good voice and the bad voice inside his head, making some terrible decisions and some kind ones on the way, even as his dream seems to be slipping away. Will his desperation get the better of him? What will Balu choose — his dream or humanity?
The writing of this film is top notch. Saurabh Bhave writes in many funny incidents and genuinely warm moments between his prime characters, creating lots of interpersonal dynamics within the situational drama.
A scene where Balu does the right thing by taking Thombare to the hospital, using the money he earned by fleecing him to pay the hospital bill, but then runs away anyway, is a very real portrayal of the duality of human nature, especially that of a young mind.
There are many moments worth enjoying during the crucial road trip in the film where Thombare's innocence and stubbornness create tricky situations for Balu, though these incidents do feel a little repetitive in the middle.
Kirkire takes on the challenge of playing a mentally challenged person, which could have easily become caricaturish, and keeps things simple, allowing him to be convincing. His endearing performance plays a crucial part in creating an emotional connection.
Sahil and Sangram are naturals, easy to love and bring a smile to your face with their antics.
The beauty of Sandeep Modi's direction lies in its simplicity. He creates lovable characters who each have their contradictions, and portrays with a lot of warmth the human struggle to do the right thing.
Chumbak was screened at the 19th MAMI Mumbai Film Festival on 13 October 2017.