Story: A young man, Billu opens a paan shop only to find that his business runs dry when there is a change in the district limits of his small town. But his fortunes turn when a family moves into the house opposite his shop, because their young teenage daughter soon catches the fancy of all the men in this town.
Review: ‘Chaman Bahar’ sets itself in small town India and gets it motif right – the characters, the setting, their manner of speaking all come together to bring out an authentic feel. Billu (Jitendra Kumar) goes against the family tide and chooses to open his own paan shop as opposed to taking up a forest department job like his father. But business is unbearably slow for him and he ends up swatting more flies in the day than making an actual sale.
There seems to be some spark added to this bleak existence when a government employee and his family moves into the vacant house opposite his paan shop. Billu is instantly intrigued by the young daughter in the family, Rinku (Ritika Badliani) who with her perfectly straight hair becomes an object of his male gaze.
Soon Billu realizes that his shop has now become a sought after spot because all the young men in this small town of Lormi seem to be interested in her. His business is brisk now – with more and more men frequenting his shop as a stopover. Soon a carrom club is set up too. But when he too falls for her, he’s torn between diverting all the crowd from his shop and keeping his business intact. It all goes on till the local police steps in to set things straight.
Chaman Bahar starts off as a quirky, comical watch but it soon gives way to an uncomfortable track of unabashed male entitlement. Rinku is a school going girl and is oblivious to stir she has created in town with her ‘half pants’. She rides off in her scooty – three to four times in a day with a hoard of men following her in their bikes. One political heir even chooses to follow her back from school to home in his car, while asking his driver to speed up so she ‘knows’ she is being followed. While all this done with a tinge of satire – it manages to make one squirm more than smile. We never hear Rinku speak or know her side of the story. She is here as the object of male desire, purely on the basis of her looks. When it gets compounded to most men in the town, including her middle aged school teacher – it is definitely even more unpalatable.
However there are some touches that tick - when Billu’s love story takes flight although only in his mind, since Rinku has never even spoken to him, he goes and gets himself a makeover.He even tries to divert the attention of the others, especially the main contenders for her attention – the local politician Shiladitya Tiwari (Alam Khan) and the rich town kid Ashu (Ashwani Kumar). There are also the two friends, the town hustlers in this mix – Somu (Bhuvan Arora) and Chottu (Dherendra Kumar Tiwari) who thrive on creating confusion and trouble. In one telling scene, Billu nursing a bruised ego chases off on his cycle behind Rinku’s scooter but she speeds off, too fast for him to even catch up with her. And eventually there is some redemption sought in the end. But the narrative is uneven and the film’s pace loses steam mid-way making it a sluggish watch after a point.
While the cast across board pulls off a good performance, Jitendra Kumar is definitely the high point of ‘Chaman Bahar’. He nails every mood and nuance of his character wonderfully blending into the small town milieu without a blip. Another impeccable act after Panchayat.