Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Athiya Shetty
Director: Debamitra Biswal
Rating: 1 star (out of 5)
It's desperate stuff and painfully so. A 25-year-old girl is desperate to marry an NRI and leave Bhopal behind. A 36-year-old accountant just back in his hometown from Dubai is desperate to find a wife. The latter's mother is desperate to satiate her greed for dowry. Her younger son is desperate to see his big brother get hitched. And the heroine's unmarried aunt is desperate to let the world know that she has turned down all of 27 suitors. None of the desperation rubs off on the screenplay of Motichoor Chaknachoor, a puerile odd-couple comedy devoid of the slightest semblance of energy. It is a film in desperate need of a coherent screenplay.
Directed by debutante Debamitra Biswal, Motichoor Chaknachoor - do not ask what the title has got to do with the thin storyline - the film is so limp that even Nawazuddin Siddiqui, saddled with the half-baked role of a socially awkward small-town man fretting over his single status, cannot salvage it. The tall, wiry, wide-eyed Athiya Shetty (in her third starring Bollywood role) is clueless as a shrewish girl who ensnares the older, shorter man with the sole aim of flying away to Dubai.
The excruciatingly unfunny film tries exceedingly hard to extract an air of mirth from the obvious incongruities between the two protagonists. But the scrappy writing yields a monotonous, pedestrian dramedy that fails to deliver even an iota of sense. How edifying could it be to watch a mismatched pair in a messy marriage of convenience going around in circles from one house to another looking for each other after they've been separated for a day due to a misunderstanding? That is how the film ends.
The mismatch between the lead actors is more than just physical. Siddiqui breezes through the film; Shetty makes heavy weather of her role. The former looks effortless to the point of appearing distracted; the latter is overly earnest. As for the rest of the cast, they are caught in a mad scramble to keep irrelevance at bay. But like everything else that has been willy-nilly bunged into this insufferably listless film, they come out looking utterly rudderless.
Motichoor Chaknachoor is a cross between a shoddy 1980s sitcom and a leaden-footed drama involving two families - the Awasthis and the Tyagis - that share a fence in a middle-class Bhopal neighbourhood. The girl who wants to fly the coop is Anita "Annie" Awasthi. The man agonizing over his protracted bachelorhood is Pushpinder Tyagi. All's well until the two gravitate towards each other under the force of circumstances and marry without the permission of their respective families. The rest is hysteria.
The most annoying aspect of Motichoor Chaknachoor is its brazen sexism even though the film is directed by a woman and one of the key figures in the plot is a domineering matriarch (played by the competent but wasted Vibha Chibber). The lady cuts a sorry figure by repeatedly exposing her avarice even as her elder son is all keyed up to exchange nuptial vows with whoever is available and willing before it is too late.
The morning after his aborted suhaag raat, when the neighbours swarm the courtyard to have a look at his new bride, Siddiqui's character casually intones: "Biwi hum laaye, manoranjan mohalle ke ho raha hai (I've brought home a wife; the whole locality is being entertained)." The line is obviously meant to be funny. Some in the audience might even respond with a chuckle. However, Siddiqui delivers the dialogue in a manner that suggests that he is least convinced about the necessity to stoop so low. That is how it ought to be. But the film has no room for such niceties.
A little later, in the course of an altercation, the male protagonist slaps his wife. The man walks away nonchalantly and the script puts the onus of saving the marriage squarely on the woman. Her father, who lives next door, sends her back, declaring that she has no right to seek refuge in her paternal home. The hero does apologize to the woman at the first available opportunity, but his expression of remorse is feeble and convenient and does nothing to undo the damage.
Motichoor Chaknachoor is also sullied by a hint of racism. The heroine, in the opening sequences, appears before a prospective life partner who lives and works in London in the hope of fulfilling her dream. She bails out of the deal when she realizes that she has no chance of accompanying the man to the UK. A few scenes later, a man from Singapore turns down an offer of marriage from her family. She wonders aloud if she'd eventually have to settle for a husband from Sri Lanka, Nepal or Bhutan. To that, her maternal aunt, a spinster by choice, responds: who knows it could even be somebody from Uganda, Somalia or Burundi.
For a film that has so little to offer by way of palatable entertainment, Motichoor Chaknachoor is way too long. As if its misogynistic transgressions aren't enough, it takes potshots at an overweight woman that the hero is on the verge of marrying until the lanky lass inveigles him out of the liaison. The girl quips: Why don't you chain an elephant in your courtyard? She thinks she has cracked a joke. Fat chance!
The romance between the gawky hero and the garrulous heroine, which occupies a large chunk of the first half, is numbingly insipid. But that isn't the worst part of the film. When the duo struggles to settle into domesticity, the film turns even more wearisome, leaving Siddiqui to scamper around in a bid to clean up the mess without any support from the script or the rest of the cast.
Give Motichoor Chaknachoor a miss if you value your time - and sanity.