It’s his sixth birthday. He lives in war-torn Iraq but all he wishes for is a perfect party (at least this year). Just when things are finally appearing to be going well, a bomb blasts right outside his house and armed US soldiers storm inside. What about his birthday party now?
This is very much the premise of the heart-warming, surprisingly-funny and seemingly path breaking movie titled “Chintu Ka Birthday.” It has opened the ongoing Jagran Film Festival at its debut screening in Delhi on a high note amidst roaring applaud.
The movie has been garnering rave reviews since then. After screening in several cities, JFF 2019 is finally coming to its final stop in Mumbai on Sept. 28. Here is why you should take out time to watch “Chintu Ka Birthday,” if you really want content to rise and prevail in Indian cinema:
The movie is the brainchild of Satyanshu Singh and Devanshu Singh, who had won National Award in 2014 for their short film “Tamaash.” “Chintu Ka Birthday” is their first feature film.
Apart from “Tamaash,” the brother-duo is also known for penning down the well-acclaimed, heart-tugging verses that we all loved in 2010 hit “Udaan.”
The movie has a dream cast of Vinay Pathak and Tillotama Shome in the lead role as Chintu’s parents. As per Satyanshu, Vinay was someone who was always in the back of their minds since script-development phase while they were quite impressed with Tillotama’s work since her debut in “Monsoon Wedding” and always wanted to work with her.
Chintu is played by child actor Vedant Raj Chhiber, who is actually Devanshu’s find whom he finalized after endless auditions in several cities.
Another star attraction of the movie is Seema Pahwa who is now a loved and familiar face after back-to-back success of “Bareilley Ki Barfi” and “Shubh Mangal Saavdhan.” Bisha Chaturvedi plays Chintu’s teenage elder sister and seems to be a star in the making.
The script in itself has a tale of its own. Shockingly and very unconventionally, it was conceived and nurtured on the campus of reputed institute Armed Forces Medical College, Pune (AFMC).
Yes, you read that right! It so happened that although the brothers were always inclined towards filmmaking, the idea was not entertained much by their parents back then due to which Satyanshu somehow ended up joining AFMC after completing school.
However, as they say, some dreams don’t die. He continued to nurture his passion through writing, self-learning and watching world cinemas. By the time he was ready to leave AFMC in 2007, the complete script of “Chintu Ka Birthday” was ready in his hands.
Well the script may be 12 years old and has naturally evolved over and over the years but surprisingly, the characters that took birth in Satyanshu and Devanshu’s minds back then remained exactly the same.
Father of the boy is a sweet, loveable character who is a man-child himself. The mother is a simple woman from the hinterland of Bihar who is trying her best to keep her kids connected to their land of origin. And Chintu is just a regular 6-year-old whose only wish in life is to have a perfect birthday.
The Solo Song:
This slice-of-life work thankfully has no songs and dance sequences. BUT, there is a lullaby which is sung by Tillotama herself and that too, very unconventionally.
The actress, who was otherwise a non-singer until then, insisted on learning and singing the song herself. And here comes the best part. The song was recorded on the set while shooting and not typically in a recording studio. So no fake lip syncing there!
You will be further surprised to know that the entire movie was shot in just 18 days.
The entire film is set over a few hours inside a house. There are very few Indian films in the entire history where the entire movie is shot inside.
Before the actual shoot, the creators conducted several workshops for the cast to bond among themselves. However, the actors playing the American soldiers in the film were not allowed to meet or interact with rest of the actors until the day of the shoot.
The directors believed it was important for the soldiers to appear alien and distant to the family, especially to the kids. So, the fascination that you will see in the eyes of Chintu and other kids is very much real.
Getting the dialect right was another major concern. Tillotama Shome, Seema Pahwa, as well as the kids – everyone learned and practiced Bihari dialect for months before the shoot.
Linguistic and Racial Diversity:
No wonder, “Chintu Ka Birthday” has a perfect easy-flow mix of many languages namely Hindi in Bihari dialect, American English, and Arabic in Iraqi dialect. Learning everything in a short time and that too for a young kid was naturally not a cakewalk.
Palestinian actor Khalid Massou had to learn Arabic in Iraqi dialect in a very short time and so did the young kids.
Apart from the linguistic diversity in the film, the racial and ethnic diversity that’s seen in the movie is also mesmerizing.
The movie has such a realistic feel that despite being set in foreign land amidst fairly unfamiliar crisis, you will be able to relate completely to the mix of sometime-funny and sometime-gloomy situations.
Additionally, to get the nuances of dialect as well as the setting perfectly right, there was an Iraqi national who pitched in and was present on the shoot all the time to guide, suggest and supervise to achieve aesthetic and linguistic authenticity.
Apart from the fascinating cast, promising directors and never-heard-before plot, the movie has a slew of some acclaimed and credible professionals on board. The sound designer of the film is Bishwadeep Chatterjee whose brilliant work has shaped iconic movies like “Bajirao Mastani,” “Padmavat,” “3 Idiots,” “Madras Cafe,” Piku” and lately “Uri.”
Similarly, the editor of the film is Charu Shree Roy who has also edited “Chhichhore,” “Sui Dhaga,” and “Lipstick Under My Burkha.”
Siddarth Diwan is the DOP whose work was also seen recently in “Bhavesh Joshi Superhero”, “Queen,” and “Trapped” while Naren-Benedict have done the background score of the movie who is also famous for “Udta Punjab,” “Sonchiriya” and “Newton.”