Night has a charm to it. It makes the heart melt, the dry mind dream, the guilty heart yearn for redemption. When the sun goes down, it often takes with it the masks people wear while it’s around. On one such night, Chippa (a brilliant Sunny Pawar), a homeless nyctophile, decides to run away from his abusive guardian aunt and all the drudgery. Don’t be quick to judge him as an unambitious escapist though — he has two high-priority goals to accomplish within the night. The first is to make memories with everyone he meets on the way, as it is his 10thbirthday.
The second, more important goal is to find someone to read the Urdu letter by his long-lost father. Chippa is in no hurry: “I have got all the time in the world,” he says to everyone he meets. In minutes, he talks of becoming a footballer, policeman, taxi driver and a bandmaster. Though he doesn’t spell it out, you can see that the poor thing has been through enough and is desperate to grow up and set himself free.
Chippa, the character, is a lovely combination of many things good. He lives in the moment, while remembering to retain distant dreams. He asks the right questions to adults, when they get life wrong. When a Taxiwaala bhai tells him his dreams are too many, Chippa says, “Why should one restrict himself to one single dream? Aren’t dreams supposed to be different from each other?” Though the journey he goes on isn’t exactly a bed of roses, he stumbles upon people who shower him with goodness.
Are they inherently angelic? Is it the charm of the night making them so? Or is it the innocence and energy of the kid reflecting from them? We do not know. But thinking again, who can be so cold as to repel such a glowing ball of positivity? Though too much goodness can get schmaltzy, this does not happen with Chippa, thanks to the detailing in the characterisation. The cheery taxi driver rides a car with a mini garden on its roof, the strict police cop admits that he chose the job for power rather than service, and a septuagenarian does an all-nighter to narrate the valour of his great-grandmother.
Could people get any more interesting? A filmmaker’s sensibilities and the perspective matters a lot while making a film about children. If he gets too self-indulgent or lacks an understanding of the world of children, the experience can get marred. But thankfully, director Safdar Rahman is on the money. His days as a school teacher must have helped him surely. When Chippa starts imagining battleships over clogged rainwater clogged or begins talking to an imaginary friend in France, it feels organic and essential. I also liked how he made his lead character a music lover and brilliantly incorporates tracks throughout the film.
I felt much fondness for Chippa.
Though he relishes each moment with all his heart, we don’t see him sport a wide smile always. There are moments where he is seen stretching his arms to feel the breeze. Now and then, he even smirks. Largely though, he observes people with longing eyes yearning to be part of a pack, team, troupe or a family. Regardless of this film’s feel-good moments, there is a mild sadness woven beautifully into this tale.
During a crucial scene, Chippa gets attacked by a mob because of a false accusation. A helping hand arrives in time, and on their way back, the saviour asks him on a lighter note whether he had had enough adventure for the night? One would ideally expect this 10-year-old to break down into tears and weep. But being the fighter he is, the blameless Chippa takes a breath and says, “No, life has just begun!” I couldn’t have asked for a better takeaway from a kids film.