By Justin Rao
Mumbai (PTI) There was something about being a ‘loser’ that didn’t let Nitesh Tiwari and his team of writers Piyush Gupta and Nikhil Mehrotra go of the idea of “Chhichhore” for six years.
It was the question: why is failing not celebrated enough and success given precedence over trying?
The college-buddy-drama, featuring an ensemble cast including Sushant Singh Rajput, Shraddha Kapoor and Varun Sharma, released last week to acclaim and encouraging box office numbers.
The film shifts the spotlight from succeeding at any cost to failing, and moving on.
“Celebrating failures was always there. The depiction of it evolved over time,” Nitesh says.
In an interview with PTI, the trio say they deliberated on how to depict failure on screen and what mode to use to express it creatively.
So, when “Chhichhore” sprints towards its climax set around a sports competition among hostels in an engineering college there is a lot at stake.
This gave the director the perfect opportunity to deliver his message: what matters when the final whistle blows is that one tried.
“We had explored different options too — how they don’t want to admit that they lost. We had five options for everything. But it wasn’t sounding honest. We felt we would be cheating if we didn’t tell the story in its entire honesty.
“Although we felt this was a bit edgy because people aren’t used to seeing this kind of stuff. There’s a certain kind of fixed expectations and format we are used to watching. Still, we always went back to this option as it communicated the thought perfectly,” Nitesh said.
“Chhichhore”, also starring Tahir Raj Bhasin, Prateik Babbar, Naveen Polishetty, Tushar Pandey and Saharsh Kumar Shukla, chronicles the ‘before and after’ of seven friends across two timelines.
“We went through so many drafts. We had put out the whole timelines side by side, 1992 and 2019, and these timelines had to make sense on their own and also in totality. We always kept the idea on simmer but never forgot.
“After ‘Dangal’, we started cooking it properly, added spices to it. So the purpose of telling the story was present from the beginning, but it was different and kept evolving,” Nitesh said.
The writers room for the film had a simple rule: write with a lot of discipline but don’t forget to have fun.
“Advertising taught us discipline – we are well aware that we are writing for the audience, not ourselves. Once you have that filter in mind, a lot of the desire to show off your skills goes away. You’re only worried about getting the logic right. For us, the story is the star,” Nitesh said.
When Nitesh mentions getting the logic right, it comes down to something as basic as giving the characters names. The film features colourful names of the boys in the hostel according to their individual traits.
While Sexa and Derek were Nitesh’s senior and super senior and Bewada his batchmate, the director said other names Mummy and Acid were creatively changed, but both these characters existed during his four years at IIT Bombay.
For Sushant’s character, Anirudh ‘Anni’ Pathak, Nitesh was clear that a lesser used on-screen name was needed.
The same amount of deliberation went into the film’s title.
Nikhil and Piyush say, among the three of them, they had come up with “hundreds” of titles until “Chhichhore” came up.
“I was uncomfortable with ‘Chhichhore’ as a word. Because the word encapsulates the fun but not the story. Nitesh would say ‘Ok so you come up with something better?'” Piyush said.
But, the title worked well for the director.
“‘Chhichhore’ defines beautifully what the film is trying to say. We are all driven by labels given to us by the society. Once you give someone a label, you stop looking at their goodness. ‘He’s short tempered, he’s alcoholic.’ But even they have qualities.
“This is what the film is trying to do – the Chhichhore also have a lot of goodness. Just because a label of ‘Chhichhore’ or ‘loser’ has been given doesn’t mean they can’t be anything else,” Nitesh said.
Along with the praise for the film, there has been criticism regarding its lack of female representation.
Critics noted that Shraddha’s character Maya was a mere spectator who is reacting to situations and hoped she was given a stronger voice.
The director says it is a boys hostel film, set up in an engineering college, where the boy-girl ratio was an “extremely skewed” of 45:1.
“Just because a girl needs to be put in, because someone will feel happy that there’s more representation of a female, I’m not going to compromise on my story. We have to write to our sensibilities, what does justice to the storyline.
“There’s no end to this argument. As writers, we have to stick to what’s going to do maximum justice to our storyline. I personally feel one girl is enough to give competition to everyone,” Nitesh added.
However, the director is “extremely touched” with the response to the film and said his whole hostel, the entire institute is in love with the film.
While the climax of “Chhichhore” gives a peek into the lives its leads, nothing is shown of Prateik Babbar’s Raggie – the headstrong, talented rival senior who spirals life-changing events in the film.
Raggie was “not an evil boy” but like all everyone else, he would’ve also shed his label today.
“What he is to his team members in Hostel 3, he would be a more chilled out version because life must’ve taught him a nice, important lesson. He will be more easy going, friendly as a boss and doing well for himself.