The cinema shows a leaning towards activism but ends up being pretentious and preachy, writes Deepa Antony.
There is a long standing discussion about what a children’s film is- whether it is a film by children for children, or by adults for children or just about children. There is, however, a common consensus that a children’s film should invariably be something children can enjoy and, at the best, learn something from. Chippy is a film that may contribute towards the discussion with the subject it handles.
Directed by Pradeep Chokli and written by Vineesh Palayadu, Chippy is the story of a bunch of kids in a the coastal village in Thalassery who try to make a short film for their friend, Ponnu, who gets ousted from the school play on account of her poverty. These are ‘kadappurathe pilleru(children of the coast)’, a bunch of tightly knit street-smart kids who are salt of the earth. The entire coastal ethos resonates their goodness and wants to help the kids in their endeavor. These kids, most of them resilient survivors of their own struggles, consider their friend Ponnu, a girl orphaned by a tsunami, to be at the heart of their group. With no money, help or technical know-how whatsoever they set out to make a short film to make Ponnu happy. They take local help from people available to them and land on the life story of Vishnu, a 12 year-old who ran away from his family of two- a mother and a sister. The film is about Vishnu’s story and the children’s struggle to make the short film.
Chippy is a film that is a slice-of-life tale in parts and documentary in the other parts. It has a harrowingly melodramatic and tediously tear-triggering tone to it. The climax is hurried, naïve and very cinematic. It is a clear departure from the realistic tone the rest of the film tries to boast of. While the story romanticizes the efforts put in by the children towards making the film, it simultaneously fails to holistically recognize the value of labour. Srindaa’s character is seen as a ‘tragedy queen’, always waiting for help and never taking charge of her situation. The little sweat she breaks while working is shown in the cinema as her misfortune. Especially for an actor like Srindaa who is known for her ‘bold village belle’ characters this is a huge departure. This is while Shruthy Menon, who works in the scorching heat frying chips to earn her daily bread, is not valorized for making a living. Shantamma, played by Marimayam fame Manju Sunichen, is also a criminally under developed character. While she plays a pivotal role in the children’s lives her story is mostly unanswered as next to nothing is known about her.
Even with veterans like Joy Mathew, Srinda Arhaan, Surabhi Lakshmi, Indrans, Salim Kumar and known faces as Manikandan and Sruthy Menon decking the cast, the ‘kadappurathe pilleru’ (children of the coast) are the real “stars” of this little movie. The children who play the characters of Shibu and Musafir are exceptionally brilliant actors. Manju Sunichen, who plays Shantamma, a patron to the kids, is arguably the best actor in the entire movie. While actors like Surabhi Lakshmi and Manikandan are heavily underutilized, Salim Kumar is placed in a single scene to simply mock the TV serial fraternity and Indrans is placed in a single song with no rhyme and reason. After Kismath, Shruthy Menon, yet again, uses her role to prove her acting prowess.
The cinema shows a leaning towards activism but ends up being pretentious and preachy. Even in taking on the education sector, or plastic waste management and making references to sanitation practices the cinema ends up being tone deaf. Even with the ensemble cast of talented actors the story and direction fails to impress viewers.
reviewed byDeepa Antony
12 Nov 2017 | 10:31 PM
- directed by
- Pradeep Chokli
- Produced by
- B. S. Babu
- Manikandan R. Achari
- Joy Mathew
- Srinda Arhaan