Atkan Chatkan movie review: Stuck in a time warp

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Atkan Chatkan movie cast: Lydian Nadhaswaram, Sachin Chaudhary, Madhav, Yash Rane and Tamanna Dipak

Atkan Chatkan movie director: Shiv Hare

Atkan Chatkan movie rating: One and a half stars

It’s 2020, twelve years since Slumdog Millionaire, but still, we need poverty porn as a medium to convey an ‘inspirational message’ and build a narrative around hope. The disheveled brown, dirt-streaked faces of the children in Atkan Chatkan leave nothing to the imagination. The two-hour-fifteen minute film is the directorial debut of Shiv Hare, and while the earnestness of the attempt was palpable in the trailer, the full-length feature adds nothing more to it.

Atkan Chatkan is the rags-to-riches story of Guddu, a gifted child prodigy who has an absent mother and an alcoholic father. He works at a tea stall but lives a life dedicated to the pursuit of music. The opening sequence has him turning to the sounds of kathha being mixed in a brass pot in a paan shop, wheat being husked, a finger ring tapping on a glass tumbler. He stumbles his way to a motley group of other street kids and they all form a band using paraphernalia of street goods — broken pipes, plastic drums, etc. But of course, he has to go through a tough beginning — get really down on his luck, and when everything seemed lost, he is rescued.

Guddu and his band are ‘discovered’ by the principal of the Tansen Sangeet Mahavidyalaya in Jhansi, where the film is set. There is a prestigious music competition on the cards, and the raggedy bunch is roped in to win it for the school. Throw in a talented teacher who has a heart of gold. This happens in the first half of the film, and by now, one can predict the second half. The second half is as tedious, hackneyed, and predictable as the first. For how long can we use the ‘even poor people are allowed to dream’ trope? All this would have been palatable, if only numerous people had not tried it successfully, many times, years ago.

Atkan Chatkan, a phrase in Hindi, which is often used for alliteration purposes, is supposed to lend a zesty, youthful vibe. The film is neither zestful nor happy. Contrived sequences, like that of the privileged kids, feeling resentful towards the gifted poor ones is very eighties, and does nothing but make one wonder if the director was stuck in a time warp. The kids are a delight to watch, even if they have to regurgitate dialogues that don’t belong to this decade.

Lydian Nadhaswaram, who plays Guddu, is a gifted pianist in real life. He has to play the role of a percussionist, which he tries valiantly. The percussion-heavy score, courtesy Sivamani, the drummer, gets lost in the melodramatic screenplay. With a name like Sivamani, attributed as the music composer, and the film is presented by AR Rahman, expectations were high on the musical end, but even there one cannot recall even one hummable ditty. Give Atkan Chatkan a miss. Listen to ‘the best of AR Rahman’ on your choice of music player instead.

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