- The plot is predictable in a way, but it is supposed to lead us into the second season with the “return of Shukla, the calculator.”
I tuned in to watch Season 1 of “Choona,” an eight-episode Indian “money heist” thriller from Pushpendra Nath Misra because of Jimmy Shergill. After “Mohabbaten,” he has showcased great acting talent in “Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster,” “Tanu Weds Manu,” “Maachis,” and “A Wednesday!”
In “Choona;” Jimmy Shergill is imbued with the darkness of all evil protagonists. Larger than life, adorned with gemstone rings for every finger, he calculates his every move like a game of chess dodging malevolent planets and their tainted “drishtis.’ He is Shukla, the evil perpetrator with political aspirations and great trust in Vaastu Shastra and astrology. His spiritual guide, the erudite Pandjitji (Atul Srivastava) is his closest confidant, till he is “dropped off,” not to his home but over a bridge.
The plot is driven by Shukla’s greed of collecting unbelievable amounts of money. Somewhere to the tune of 800 crore rupees to overthrow the ruling party. How I miss the days when gangsters could get by with a mere one or two crores in the 1960s. But what makes the story interesting is the colorful ensemble cast of mismatched characters who all have an ax to grind with Shukla. They band up like Alibaba’s bandits and pull a fast one over Shukla’s penetrating eyes. I watched every episode thinking that their ill-conceived heist was going to result in murder and mayhem but they get away despite Shukla’s murderous right-hand man, his killer dogs, his army of security guards, his close circuit camera network and lasers. He is left trapped in his fortress.
I think, if you can fast forward to the episodes where one of my favorite actors — Namit Das (who was amazing in “The Suitable Boy”), the inimitable Triloki, transforms into Choona Maharaj; a schizoid combination of tantric and aghori sadhu who convinces Shukla to change the direction of his toilet.
Their interactions were hilarious. Not only does Namit Das has his entire body painted in what appears to be white limestone or “choona” but he manages to “lagao choona” or deceive Shukla in broad daylight. The struggling alcoholic contractor JP (Vikram Kochhar), the police officer Baankey (Gyanendra Tripathi) and his resourceful sister Bela (Monika Panwar), the self-immolating Ansari (Aashim Gulati), and the classic “ghar ka bhedi” Bishnu (Chandan Roy) are good fun, varied in their utility and personality, but might Pandjit Ji (Atul Srivastava) crackles with energy.
The plot is predictable in a way but it is supposed to lead us into the second season with the “return of Shukla, the calculator.” The interactions and conversations between the characters seem a bit obtuse and although not as slick and hilarious, the antics in “Choona” remind me of the ensemble comedy movies like “Hera Pheri” series. To those who scoff at astrology and superstitious humbug, “Choona” will be entertaining and gratifying. A rustic take on a dark Comedy of Errors.
With one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India, and a heart steeped in humanity, writing is a contemplative practice for Monita Soni. She has published hundreds of poems, movie reviews, book critiques, and essays and contributed to combined literary works. Her two books are My Light Reflections and Flow through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.