Cast: Sunny Singh, Maanvi GagrooDirector: Abhishek Pathak
Ujda Chaman tells the story of a perfectly eligible bachelor whose receding hairline thwarts any chances of romance and marriage in his life.
Chaman Kohli (Sunny Singh) is 30, has a stable job as a professor of Hindi at a Delhi University college, and lives with his middle-class family in Rajouri Gardens. He’s what many would describe as a “good catch”, except that no one seems to want to catch him.
The film is a remake of a 2017 Kannada hit, and its makers seem to regard premature baldness as some sort of disability, which is both troubling, and frankly unconvincing. All attempts to find a wife for him prove futile; he’s repeatedly rejected by girls and their parents. At college, students routinely humiliate him. And his family has been warned by an astrologer that he’ll remain a bachelor if they can’t marry him off by the time he turns 31. It’s all getting to the poor chap, who becomes obsessed with finding a partner.
There’s genuine potential in the film’s premise…in the idea that a full head of hair is somehow linked to masculinity and a deep sense of security. But director Abhishek Pathak and his writers seldom go beyond the obvious.
The film improves considerably with the entry of Maanvi Gagroo as the plus-sized young woman, Apsara, whom Chaman meets on Tinder. There is scope here to address the hypocrisy of the typical Indian male who is quick to judge a woman by her appearance, while smarting from being judged exactly by the same superficial yardstick. But the film is not interested in anything even remotely deep. It’s content with delivering pedestrian jokes, and making a token plea to seek the ‘inner beauty’ of a person.
Even if you’re willing to overlook its complete inability to provide any valuable insight, the film isn’t even funny enough to work as a pure comedy. Chaman’s folks are your stereotypical, loud Punjabi family, constantly bickering and saying the wrong things at the wrong time. There’s even a tasteless sequence that suggests he’s so out of his depth with women, his younger brother can get game but not him.
The problem is that this whole thing is an idea in search of a script. There’s just not a lot to work with. It also doesn’t help that Chaman is the dullest person you’ll come across. You wouldn’t know what to say to him if you were stuck with him in a lift. He’s obsessed with his baldness and with finding a woman, but that’s pretty much all there is to him. You want to shake him up and say it’s not about what’s on his head, but that there’s nothing in it. The film also exposes its leading man’s limited acting skills.
I was bored to death as Ujda Chaman unfolded slowly, verrrry slowly over two long hours. I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five.