Paper & Ink

A Small Packet of Happiness: Chintu Ka Birthday (Review)

The world is no longer a safe haven like it used to be. People are fighting people over caste, religion and beliefs. Cities are fighting cities over culture and language. States are fighting states over boundaries. Countries are fighting countries over borders. The world is fighting with Covid-19. Amongst all these fights, if we have anything that gives us hope and happiness, that is the small packets of joy that come our way. In these trying times, if we don’t value counting our blessings, we cannot expect the miracle to happen overnight.

Chintu Ka Birthday (airing on Zee5) is one such movie that portrays the importance of smaller joys which we tend to ignore in our fleeting lives. The movie, which has a total runtime of 1 hr 20 minutes, narrates an ordinary story that is set in an extraordinary circumstance. Little Chintu is going to turn 6 and all he wishes for is to celebrate his birthday- eat cake, call over his friends and get gifts. It is a simple wish, isn’t it? But ostensibly, George Bush has different plans, for he bombs Iraq to extract Saddam Hussain. Amidst bombing, power cut, house invasion, detainment and physical assault, Chintu still hopes that his birthday will come to fruition and that is something to look out for.

Chintu Ka Birthday is a short but impactful film. Set in terse conditions, the film deftly narrates the plight of an Indian family who is desperately waiting for that one opportunity to return to their country. When two American soldiers invade their house, their expressions show their pain (internal) and misery. Chintu’s friend, Waheed, an Iraqi boy, has been used as a metaphorical reference for ‘growing up’. He is carefree and doesn’t miss any chance of forming allies (a skill needed to survive). Even though his character doesn’t have a major role, his actions give the audience a glimpse of the lives of several children in Baghdad who are a victim of the war, yet they learn to survive.

The movie also touches upon the political bigotry that intervenes in the otherwise peaceful life of the civilians. While the Indian government is hell-bent on proving that they have successfully evacuated all Indians from Iraq, the Iraqi government doesn’t care about the suffering of the people. Stuck between two varied political agendas is Madan’s family. But believe you me, Madan doesn’t give up, partly because he believes that it is his fault and partly because he is just so sanguine. During one of the moments when he is handcuffed and his head is covered with a black cloth, he says to the Americal soldier that the latter could stay in the house for as long as he wants, for Madan knows that no bomb will be able to affect the house (he believes the house to be pious).

There are several other strong performances. To begin with, Chintu (Vedant Raj Chibbar) is so lovable. With every dialogue that he says, he makes his way further into the viewers’ heart. When he is happy, the atmosphere lights up. When he cries, the viewers cry with him. His genuine performance is praiseworthy. Vinay Pathak as Madam is endearing. His talent lies in portraying emotions that are not only germane but also veritable. He is optimistic, brave and vulnerable at the same time. All he wants is the happiness of his boy and he can go to any length to get that. Get that? Tillotama Shome as Madan’s wife is simple and soft. Her character adds the required warmth in the otherwise tense atmosphere. Who is the villain, you might ask? No one in particular. But Chintu’s grandmother, played by Seema Pahwa, does act like one, for she remains forever annoyed by her son-in-law. The two American soldiers (Nate Scholz and Reginald L. Barnes) are fierce, impulsive yet loyal towards their country. They have a sense of righteousness that tags along. Chintu’s sister, Lakshmi, played by Bisha Chaturvedi, is an epitome of love and belonging. She might not show it but she loves her brother a lot. How sweetly she uses stencils to make a Birthday Chart for Chintu! Even sweeter is the scene where she tries to bake the cake for Chintu because the shops are closed owing to the bombing.

Chintu Ka Birthday might be underrated but it deserves to be watched because of its simplicity and its plausibility. Habitual of viewing only the big picture, we, as humans, need to see and empathize with our fellow beings who suffer without any fault of theirs. We should learn from them to count our blessings and enjoy all those precious moments that can also become our last!

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