'Chhello Show' review: An ode to childhood innocence and love for cinema

Human relationships have been captured beautifully


Mane Prakash bhanvo che, Prakash maj thi vaarta bane che [I want to learn light, story emerges from light], nine-year-old Samay tells his Bapuji.

Set in Kathiyawad (Saurashtra) region of Gujarat, Chhello Show (The Last Film Show) is the story of Samay (Bhavin Rabari) who aspires to study 'light', and is fascinated by the way movies are projected and the process involved in making the reels.

India’s official entry for Oscars 2023, directed by acclaimed director Pan Nalin and produced by many, including Roy Kapur Films, this Gujarati movie of 1.5 hours gives a refreshing feeling, especially at a time when majority of the Bollywood movies are not doing good.

The best part of the movie is that you will hardly find anything 'filmy' in it. The locations (all from Saurashtra) are natural and so is the acting, especially of the child artists. Except for a couple of elders in the movie, all child artists are new and hail from the region.

Samay has been an observer. He keenly watches the trail left behind by a jet even before his first exposure to a single-screen cinema hall in a nearby small town.

Notwithstanding his Bapuji’s (Dipen Raval) warning that this would be his first and last film exposure as films are not good and has taken the family for the show as it is a movie of a Goddess, Samay keeps bunking school only to take a train and reach the cinema hall.

Once when he is thrown out of the cinema hall as he did not have a ticket, he bumps into Fazal (Bhavesh Shrimali), the projector operator. The movie beautifully captures the growing bond between Samay and Fazal and, how the latter allows Samay into the projection room and tries explaining to him the nuances that he knows. But there is a selfish bit too in this relationship. For Samay’s open entry to the projection hall, he has to give Fazal in barter delicious dishes dished out by his Ba (Richa Meena). Even as Fazal licks his fingers while relishing the dishes, the cinematography brings out clearly the colours of spices and Ba’s cooking skills.

In between, one may find the movie moving at a slow pace but one is surely eager to find what Samay’s next move would be. Bapuji wants Samay to be an ideal son (even puts up a poster in the house) but the young lad is an explorer and full of curiosity. Amid selling tea at the railway station, he finds time for his passion. The way he makes stories from a collection of matchboxes reflects the character’s talent.

The narrative where five of Samay’s friends join hands to make a projector and screen a film for the villagers at a haunted place has been nicely captured.

The human relationships, may that be of the student and teacher, father and son, mother and son and, projector operator and student have been beautifully captured. Samay quickly gauges that something is wrong when his father is sitting silent, after being told that he will have to wind up the tea stall at the railway station following gauge conversion.

Many a time, there is no sound in the movie. Silence, however, does the talking.

What follows later is worth watching. The climax of the movie is full of emotions. The tag lines “When you have nothing, nothing can stop you” and “Learn and Leave” are motivations of sorts.

The movie is a semi-autobiography of Nalin and was also inspired by his friend, a film projectionist, who had lost his job due to the death of single-screen cinema.

Film: Chhello Show

Director: Pan Nalin

Cast: Bhavesh Shrimali, Richa Meena, Dipen Raval

Rating: 4/5

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