Happi And Chaman Bahaar: Two Features On Streaming Platforms You May Have Missed

Here's looking Happi and Chaman Bahaar - two features on streaming platforms you may have missed

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Happi And Chaman Bahaar: Two Features On Streaming Platforms You May Have Missed
HAPPI (Zee5): By rescuing director Bhavna Talwar’s exquisite black-and-white homage to the great Charlie Chaplin, Zee 5 has shown us what the streaming platform should actually be used for. A film like Happi comes once in a bluemoon. It is a daringly unconventional film and not the least unexpected from the very talented director Bhavna Talvar whose Dharm in 2007 featured Pankaj Kapoor in yet another career-defining role.

Happi is a film that will go down in history as India’s only genuine tribute to the genius of Charlie Chaplin. Doing the homage (never an impersonation) the great Pankaj Kapoor immerses himself in the character of the capricious naïve pure-hearted Happi, a chawl dweller who is the brunt of ridicule in an Iranian club where he sings and does stand-up comedy to eke out a living. He is fairly ridiculous. But happy when humoured.

The sequences in the smoky club find Pankaj Kapoor at the peak of puckishness.That’s where Happi comes alive. But unknown to him, Happi's career is dead. In a generation-driven  conflict that we recently saw in Tumhari Sallu, the kindly club owner’s brash son(Nakul Vaid, in a credible performance) gatecrashes into the club’s serene status quo, and overnight changes the rules, hiring a crooning siren (Hrishita Bhatt) to replace Happi and then promptly having an affair with her.

As socio-cultural changes overpower Happi’s life, he looks around in utter bewilderment at a world he no longer knows. It is a heartbreaking situation to be in. Pankaj Kapoor constructs Chaplineque pathos in Mumbai’s bustling chawls where callousness is a way of life. If you can’t cope, you perish. Or otherwise you become the Joker.

More than a portrait of a rapidly mutating metropolitan environment, Happi shows us how cruel human beings can be to someone who is not  uncorrupted enough to understand when he is being mocked. The sequence where the club gets Happi drunk and watches him perform a silly dance is heartbreaking. This is a world where Raj Kapoor’s Awara is blinded by Chaplin’s City Lights. This is a world where a ‘Happi’ is way too emotionally fragile to survive. His friendship with a street dog Chotu who follows him home will linger in your memory as a showcase of loneliness and companionship in a city that grows rapidly uncaring.

Pankaj Kapoor’s Happi is what Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker becomes when left to be annihilated by his own desolation. There are some interesting cameos,particularly Supriya Pathak (Mrs Pankaj Kapoor) as the street vendor Rukmani whose initial kindness towards Happi turns into a sneering contempt for a man too naïve to survive in the concrete jungle.

Shot in lucid black and white by Martin Grosup, Happi could have done better in the music department. The mighty Ilayaraja disappoints big time. That’s what life does. Like Happi who believes a smile can overcome any crisis, the surge of disappointments tends to cut away from your faith in mankind to rise to any occasion. Sometimes, the dream just dissolves. This is not a safe place for Happi to be. Farewell, my hapless warrior.

CHAMAN BAHAAR (Zee 5): Jitendra Kumar is fast becoming the on-screen face of backwater backwardness. Barely had we gotten over his last OTT outing Panchayat where he played a petty government official in the wilderness, when now he shows up in another windswept counter-progressive town in Chattisgarh where he plays a paanwala ogling endlessly at a girl who moves into the house across the street. Don’t get him wrong. Billu is not a lecher. He is just one of the many worthless Romeos in the sleepy town-like village who have found a new way to entertain themselves by ogling at the new unattainable girl-woman (Ritika Badiani), who walks her dog on the godforsaken highway as though she were Urmila Matondkar in a whole town of Ram Gopal Varmas.

Chaman Bahaar is meant to be an excruciatingly funny take on mofussil mores and the lack of sexual experience in places where there is no socializing over the gender barrier. In reality it is very, very dangerous to show an underage girl being gawked at and stalked by drooling boorish bucolic loverboys who probably go home and watch porn. The best thing to happen to our pathetic hero Billu is the cop who thrashes the living daylights of his manhood reverie and demolishes his paan ki dukaan.

Image source: IMDb, Youtube/YoodleeFilms/ZEE5