A still from 'Atkan Chatkan'
A still from 'Atkan Chatkan'

'Atkan Chatkan' movie review: Percussive sounds and big dreams

Atkan Chatkan literally refers to a kind of children’s game, but it made me think of everything from Haldiram flavours to naming traditions in northern households.

Atkan Chatkan literally refers to a kind of children’s game, but it made me think of everything from Haldiram flavours to naming traditions in northern households. Life is hard on 10-year-old Guddu and his younger sister. Their father is an out-of-work alcoholic; their mother is absent.

Guddu provides for the family by delivering tea on the streets. His heart, however, lies in music. This is a rare film shot in Jhansi, with the city’s Bipin Bihari College dressed up as the ‘Tansen Music Academy’. Guddu aspires to learn music formally, but his meagre means keep him shunned. Eventually, he gathers other street kids and starts his own band. 

The film contrasts the harsh realities of child labour with the dreaminess of the gang. Guddu sees a vision of himself in a bus: big smile, clean clothes, shiny guitar. His friends get by by begging on buses. One of them, Chuttan (Sachin Chaudhary), hangs currency notes as dreamcatchers. The band creates DIY instruments from junk: chimes, drums, xylophones.

There’s a buffet of everyday percussive sounds, which are rendered so well that the actual soundtrack – featuring Sonu Nigam, Hariharan and Amitabh Bachchan – fades in comparison. As a musical, Atkan Chatkan sticks strictly to template. It’s no surprise that two of the best passages play out silently, with just Guddu and his music. Words are an intrusion in his young composer’s mind.

Atkan Chatkan

Cast: Lydian Nadhaswaram, Sachin Chaudhary, Yash Rane, Tamanna Dipak
Director: Shiv Hare
Streaming on: ZEE5

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