Choona is too slow, has redundant characters and needless complications, observes Deepa Gahlot.
In Mumbai slang, ‘choona lagana‘ is to fool or con someone.
Which is what six men do to a politician against whom they all hold a valid grudge.
The heist caper is a popular genre, and if a safe full of ill begotten wealth gets cleaned out, then there is some satisfaction to be derived from a bad man getting his just deserts. But it is tiring to watch how much the actors have to huff and puff to wring some excitement or humour from Pushpendra Nath Misra’s Choona.
Either the writer-director has some extra insights into the audience’s diminishing attention span, or is not sure that the audience will get the plot — because there is a droll running commentary in Arshad Warsi’s voice throughout, explaining what the viewer can see.
Or maybe by all that chatter, Mishra is trying to ward off the déjà vu that is inevitable when one more corrupt politician surfaces in a generic north Indian town, and one more slum is marked for demolition to make way for a mall!
Avinash Shukla (Jimmy Shergill) is always talking of buying and selling MLAs and toppling the CM to grab the chair himself. He can kill with impunity, the cops are on his payroll and people are afraid of what he is capable of doing.
The vain bloke, seen a lot in a copper tub in a swanky bathroom, has one weakness — astrology.
He wears gemstone rings on all his fingers and does not move till the planets (seen in clumsy VFX) are aligned. That is his weak spot that his foes take advantage of.
Aspiring politician Yakub Ansari (Aashim Gulati) is angry because Shukla had killed his uncle and now wants to evict the poor residents of his stronghold of Pathaan Tola.
JP (Vikram Kochar) lost his business to Shukla’s vaastu fixation.
Baankey (Gyanendra Tripathi) is a cop, who was publicly humiliated and demoted by Shukla.
Bishnu (Chandan Roy) is his trusted factotum, who wants to avenge the murder of his sister by Shukla.
Shukla also tried to kill a pandit (Atul Srivastava) and made another enemy.
Petty thief Triloki (Namit Das) is along for the ride because he got inside news about a vast fortune that Shukla is about to get as a bribe from the mall’s builders.
They plan the robbery but before that, there’s each character’s back story to tick off, plus Yakub and Triloki’s love interests to be introduced.
The two young women have the most interesting roles.
Triloki’s girlfriend Jhumpa is a tech whiz, without whose expertise nothing can move on the heist.
Baankey’s sister Bela (Monica Panwar) is a failed cop-turned-successful news anchor, who has the funniest scene in the show, when she escapes armed kidnappers, while the guys flounder around with their blundering rescue mission.
For a caper, Choona is too slow, and has quite a few redundant characters and needless complications.
It does sneak in a Hindu-Muslim romance in this intolerant age, and quietly comments on the victimisation of Muslims, though Shukla is an equal opportunity exploiter.
Jimmy Shergill has the biggest role and towers over the rest, playing Shukla with a world weary air, like a man who knows he is being yanked down by his idiot cronies.
Aashim Gulati provides the dude looks, Gyanendra Tripathi the intensity, Chandan Roy the sly charm and Vikram Kochhar the clownishness.
But the actor who has the most fun is Namit Das because he is a master of disguise in the show and plays a hilarious tantrik.
The chemistry between the members of the gang livens up the proceedings when the show drags, but even they cannot paint (another meaning of lagaoing choona) over the cracks.
Choona streams on Netflix.
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