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Movie Review
Channa Mereya:Not so ‘Sairat’


Story: Nagraj Manjule Screenplay: Pankaj Batra, Jatinder Lall Dialogue: Jatinder Lall
 
The meaning of Marathi word ‘Sairat’ is unrestrained. The superhit Marathi film Sairat, based on unrestrained love of a teenage couple, not only gained international acclaim but its unique climax also set it apart from the common lot. This film highlights the hard-hitting topic of Honor Killing. Channa Meriya is an official remake of Sairat directed by Pankaj Batra, director of successful films like ‘Goreyan Nu Dafa Karo’ and ‘Bambukaat’. Earlier, director Sameep Kang directed the Punjabi remake of Marathi film Lock which left the audience completely dismayed. Punjabi audience had high expectations from Pankaj Batra for this remake of a very popular Marathi film. More expectations get piled on by the fans of popular singers Amrit Maan and Ninja, who are debuting with this film. Does Channa Mareya fulfill all the expectations, let’s see.
 
A lower cast farmer Gurbax Singh’s (Malkeet Rauni) son Jagat Singh (Ninja) is completely immersed in the love for Kainaat Dhillon (Payal Rajput) daughter of a high caste local MLA Shamsher Singh Dhillon (Yograj Singh). Due to this social demarcation Jagat is afraid to express his love for Kainaat, but his friends Davinder Sharma aka Damru (Karamjit Anmol) and Bittu pushes him to express his feelings. Jagat goes to Kainat’s haveli to celebrate her brother Balli’s (Amrit Maan) birthday. A volcanic incident happens there which turns their blossoming love life upside down. Will the love birds succeed in coping up with this turmoil?  To know this you have to watch Channa Mereya.
 
It is inevitable to compare Sairat and Channa Mereya. The story is written by Nagraj Manjule, while writing the screenplay for its Punjabi adaptation Pankaj Batra and Jatinder Lall has tried their best to paint it in all the colors of Punjab, but unfortunately the color of Jattism (upper caste) dominates it completely. Therefore, it does not imbibe that realistic atmosphere which is the USP of Sairat. Another biggest flaw is its weak and unrealistic characterization. Sairat’s all the leading characters look teenagers and simplistic. On the other hand, even the poor characters of Channa Mereya look like ramp models. No doubt Sairat’s characters are draped in freshly washed and ironed clothes but they look like commoners while Punjabi counterparts are more like brands cladding mannequins wandering in a mall’s showroom. Ninja’s florescent brand shoes glare up at many places. Sairat’s director Nagraj Manjule worked hard on the detailing of his characters, including their day to day life, what they do for their livelihood, their mannerism and the behavior, but Channa Mereya lacks this depth. These shortcomings render more flimsiness to the screenplay and characters. Few of poetic dialogues by Jatinder Lall come to their rescue. 
 
After a gripping Bambukaat director Pankaj Batra disappoints big time with Channa Mereya. The first half deals with the blossoming love between the leading pair and their romantic hook ups. The smooth sailing of romance is disrupted by forced loud comedy acts. Like a sequence where Jagat is seeking Kainaat’s reply for his first love letter, in the Marathi version the whole act goes in much subtle way sprouting the innocent laughter naturally, while in the Punjabi version director forces a prattling loud act through the character of Damru. Damru, justifying his name, speaks a lot illogically, which starts irritating after a point. In the introduction scene, Kainat is shown firing a double barrel gun to infuse unwanted Jattitude which steals the innocence of highly somber character. What Punjabi directors do not care to understand that being bold, strong and full of attitude has nothing to do with being violent. 
 
In the second half the love birds on the one hand tries to escape from the brutalities of their own loved ones while on the other hand they toil hard to cope with realities of life. At this point story lands in picturesque Dalhousie and screenplay starts snoozing. Consequently, it could not build up the atmosphere which is principally required for a hard hitting climax so that audience can digest the realistic ending. Marathi version depicts the hardships of the couple with minute details, which keeps the audience on the edge of the seat.  On the pretext of these obstacles Manjule tries to peep into the lives of slum dwellers and difficulties they face in their day to day life, even their shabby bathrooms. Further, while coping with these obstacles, professional and emotional growth of the both the protagonists have been shown gradually. On the other hand, Pankaj Batra, land his protagonists directly into the well equipped home and fits them into appropriate jobs. When the hero is still struggling to save his and his beloved’s life, showing him thinking about ‘suhaagraat’ immediately after getting a bed in the presence of an old man just to infuse comedy sounds sheepish. In the first half Kainaat is shown as a strong independent girl while in the second half after getting a hotel job her character arc freezes permanently. Just before the climax when Balli and his comrades come to see Kainaat they keeps on talking abstaining to build the atmosphere for upcoming numbing climax. Therefore, when the climax scene fades in and the sound goes on mute audience fails to grasp what has happened. And when they are about to decode the reality end credit starts rolling. 
 
Pankaj has kept the original opening and closing act; recreating each frame almost similar which turns out to be excellent  at the production value level. In the middle act he has tried to do his own experiment to add more Punjabi flavor. I was skeptical about the acceptance of realistic climax as the Punjabi audience is known to throng around the screen to celebrate the happy endings. My skepticism proved right when almost full house started thronging the exit gates as soon as the end credits started rolling. What I overheard from the young lads walking behind me disappointed me more. One of the guys said to another, ‘if the climax is not good, I really don’t care about the goodness of the whole film’. In another group a guy asked, ‘why they need to show us so much of reality?’ It is like denying the truth in broad daylight. When in the last decade, dozens of honor killing cases have been reported each year it is like a pigeon closing his eyes on seeing a cat, thinking she doesn’t exist. The original Marathi film is based on the idea that when, in our society, a young girl tries to take her decisions independently she has to go through unprecedented turmoil and the guy’s family left behind has to bear the burns. But Channa Mereya turns out to be male dominated film. That’s why hero having a younger sister in Marathi version, Punjabi maker chooses to portray a younger brother. Thus, when Jagat runs away from home the problem of his sister not getting an appropriate match for marriage automatically gets chopped out. Moreover, too much emphasis has been given to exaggerate the character of Amrit Maan. What would be the height of showing fake Jattism that in Marathi version when the couple is caught red lipped (handed) kissing each other in MLA’s compound, MLA pulls away his daughters and take her inside the home and leaves the guy and his friends at the mercy of his goons. On the other hand in our own Punjabi version not only the macho villainous brother beats up the guys in full blow, but girl’s father shoots ‘proudly’, point blank, one out of them. 
 
I was not expecting much acting from Ninja and my unfaith is kept intact by him. Though he looks charming on screen, as he usually looks in his music videos, but the acting is still an improbable dream for him. Like his music videos, Amrit Maan, keeps wearing his tough look under his long stylized beard and curved mustaches, but expressions refuse to surface on his face. He definitely looks like a life-like villain, but his delivery doesn’t succeed to impact the audience. Television actress Payal Rajput surprises. In her debut role as Kainaat she seems fully drenched in love from head to toe and she keeps oozing that innocent love till the climax. Due to her counterpart Ninja’s fabricated act they could not build a romantic chemistry, which was the high point of Sairat’s simple story. The way Parshya and Archie paint the whole world of Sairat with their innocent unrestrained love is unmatchable. Channa Mereya’s love birds look much matured so there is no feeling of innocence or craziness at all. Though Karamjit Anmol, with his loud acting, tries to churn out a few laughs, but his structure and age doesn’t suit to the character. And surprising another friend of Jagat who was making his presence felt was wiped out just at the interval; sadly his real name is not mentioned in any promotional material. Yograj was just there trying hard to pull his character. Anita Devgan, in a scene where she convinces Jagat to leave the home forever and latter on phone instructs him never to come back profoundly depicts the paradox between helplessness and emotions of a mother. Anita Meet didn’t get much space to show off her feelings towards her daughter. Instead of casting him for real impactful character BN Sharma has been exploited to make a funny appearance which leaves a bad after taste. 
 
Music of Channa Mereya is just passable. Just one Song ‘Hawa de Warke’ written by Navi Kamboz brimming with poetic musing tries to render some craziness at the beginning. The best part of Channa Mereya is its cinematography. Vinit Malhotra perfectly uses the aerial shots in the opening scene and chase scene. Snow laden beautiful peaks of Dalhousie bring a fresh air into the dull story. The director must have used this location to show the difficult hilly life. Background score was strictly okay. 
 
Though in comparison to Sairat, Channa Mereya has too many shortcomings, continuity flaws, and many unanswered questions which I leave to the imagination of the audience, but looking at it independently I believe this film tries to bring up the meaningfulness to Punjabi cinema with utmost honesty. It will help to push the audience to watch and get connected to the films which might not have conventional outcomes. We need many more such films minus mentioned flaws for the growth of our own cinema.
 
So the diehard fans of Ninja and Amrit Maan will definitely be going to watch Channa Mereya, but if someone will ask me that why should s/he should watch the film my answer would be that for the innocence of Payal’s character and unique but realistic climax. 


   Deep Jagdeep Singh

Deep Jagdeep Singh is a freelance journalist, Screenwriter and a Lyricist. http://www.facebook.com/deepjagdeepsingh.

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