Rating 2.5/5 stars
In the grand scheme of Pakistan's fledgling industry, Mehwish Hayat's Chhalawa is a small brick in the wall. As different directors and writers try their hand at various genres, Wajahat Rauf seems to have found his favorite category: slapstick comedy. It is clearly quite popular these days with Wrong No. 2 also releasing simultaneously this eid and who can blame the money-men? Jawaani Phir Nahin Aani 2 was one of the biggest blockbusters in recent times and while the film had barely a semblance of a plot, it managed to entertain everyone and has already become a successful franchise.
Chhalawa, however, is not in the league of Jawaani Phir Nahin Aani when it comes to an A-list cast, but it follows Jawaani Phir Nahin Aani's methodology almost clinically. There are lots of one-liners with little to no plot, an entertainer song here and there and a lot of self-referenced jokes. Zoya (Mehwish Hayat) is the daughter of Chaudhary Rafaqat (Mehmood Aslam) who is in love with Sameer (Azfar Rehman) but Rafaqat doesn't want Zoya to get married to Sameer (flimsy reason of hum apnon main shadi karte hain beta). Zoya has a sister, Haya (Zara Noor Abbas) and Sameer has a friend Luqman (Asad Siddiqui) who also end up falling in love with each other. Luqman, by the way, pretends to be a fake peer and that's how he helps bring Sameer and Zoya together. And that's just the first ten minutes of the film. Not much changes in the rest of the two hours as the premise builds on to channel almost every third romantic comedy set in India or Pakistan.
To Rauf's credit, the film is a better feature than his earlier work and not half as bad as it could have possibly been. Some of the jokes are actually laugh out loud and the fact that the film does not pretend to be anything more than it is most of the time (the emo lectures do get a bit jarring) is why you can tolerate the stereotypical characters and the OTT performances. Zara Noor Abbas and Asad Siddiqui make an impressive debut but their performances or Mehwish Hayat's stunning good looks aren't enough to distract you from the fact that while the characters are enjoyable, they are inconsistent for the most part.
Rafaqat Chaudhary is constantly cracking technology related jokes and seems to be a chill enough guy yet somehow is maniacally intolerant of his daughter finding a man to marry for herself. There is no backstory as to how Zoya and Sameer fell in love with each other or how Rafaqat is okay with his daughter, Haya, to be obsessed with being a film heroine but wouldn't be okay with her marrying Luqman. There is also little explanation as to what 'Chirrya', the song, was doing in the film.
The dialogs by Yasir Hussain and Wajahat Rauf are enjoyable and thankfully they don't stop being entertaining throughout. Shiraz Uppal's title track 'Chhalawa' is the only track you're left humming to yourself. The rest are forgettable and often seem abruptly placed throughout the film.
The main upside to a film like Chhalawa is that they are a casual timepass for audiences and are exactly the kind of outing you'd turn to if you want to forget the news and various other stresses in life. Switch off. Enjoy the laughs and forget about it the moment you walk out of the cinema. If only the filmmakers had invested in developing the characters instead of merely relying on funny irreverent dialogs doing the trick for them, Chhalawa would have been a timeless watch. However, it is destined to fade into the annals of the multifarious generic slapstick romantic comedies that have come and gone and have been subsequently and, quite easily, forgotten.