Chintu Ka Birthday
Starring: Vinay Pathak, Tilottama Shome
Directed by Devanshu Kumar, Satyanshu Singh
Rating: *** 3 stars
Chintu is 6. And his birthday turns out to be more adventurous than the little boy expected it to be.
As written by the co-directors, Chintu Ka Birthday (ZEE5) is actually a one-act play masquerading as a motion picture. The film set in post-Saddam Iraq in 2004 is about a Bihari water-filter salesman, played by the very talented Vinay Pathak who is struck with his family.
No, this is not a film about the Tiwary family fleeing war-torn Iran. The made-for-miniature-viewing product has neither the vision nor the resources to pull off an Airlift. So Akshay (Kumar) can breathe easy. Instead, this is a film about the 6-year old son Chintu’s birthday being disrupted by American soldiers barging into the Tiwary household.
Much of what ensues thereafter is predictable at parts but also poignant. Shukla’s Madan Tiwary bends backward to be civil to the unwanted guests, and really, we all know how this will pan out (hint: macho soldiers with massive guns also have a heart). What saves this drama from descending into dreariness is the gifted multi-racial cast and some moments when the plot’s overweening virtuousness makes way for some authentic dramatic tension.
I especially liked Tilottama Shome scolding her whining complaining mother (Seema Pahwa, wasted) and when her kind husband tries to stop her Shome smirks, “It’s okay the old lady needs to be given a dose now and then.”
Despite the cramped one-set environment and a determined bid to uphold the plot’s Popsicle politics, Shome and Tiwary manage to make their characters rounded grounded and believable.
All else is treacly and over-sweetened in this story where the condensed milk of human kindness flows in a syrupy stream. There are interesting Iranian cast members who seem to be in this for the fun, though the promised birthday party never happens. The two American soldiers look like extras from American Sniper. And I do mean that as a compliment. Siddharth Diwan’s cinematography and Charu Shree Roy’s editing dispel the mood of claustrophobia induced by the lack of mobility and the excess of nobility in the proceedings.