Throwback Thursday: Chameli – Pain and Pleasure

What happens when two people who are completely different from each other end up in the same place? Meet Chameli (Kareena Kapoor). A street-smart, confident, easygoing call girl who makes money living off the streets of Mumbai. Suddenly she runs into an investment banker named Aman Kapoor (Rahul Bose), who is deeply depressed and frustrated with life. This film tells the tale of what happens when two people who are completely different from each other end up in the same place under unique situations and circumstances.

It is quite obvious from the get-go that both characters have emotional baggage and experience significant distress, whether it is Chameli for having to resort to prostitution for a livelihood or Aman’s lack of meaning in life. Needless to say, Chameli is a depressing but realistic film, and the continuous rain throughout the plot serves as a metaphor for all the tears and sorrow in these protagonists’ lives. Despite the dark cinematography and gloomy weather, Chameli’s carefree personality and humor provide somewhat of a balance to the depression, even if she does use laughing as a defense mechanism to hide her pain.

A particularly interesting scene towards the beginning of the movie occurs when Chameli starts telling Aman about her life and how she ended up as a call girl. However, she doesn’t tell him her actual story – only highly emotional and tearjerking versions of it that she would tell clients to make some extra bucks. The fact that we don’t initially find out Chameli’s life history maintains the enigma of her personality and sustains interest in the film. Most importantly, even though Chameli is a call girl by profession, we begin to see that she is just like any other girl and has similar wishes and desires.

Even though Chameli is mostly realistic, there are a few minor gaps in the screenplay. For example, in the song “Bhaage Re Mann”, numerous people come by the the area where Aman and Chameli are “stranded”; yet, Aman has conveniently forgotten about the fact that he is stuck there because his car broke down and he needs a mechanic to help fix it, even though he has been fretting about it in essentially all the previous scenes. It is unlikely that Aman experienced such a drastic transformation – from wanting to save himself to not caring about his car – in less than thirty minutes. Barring this minor blunder, the characterization and progression of the plot is slow but tolerable.

While most viewers would probably enjoy the middle portion of the film where most of the plot action takes place, this section was a bit boring for me and a bit difficult to get through. Perhaps this is because I’m a psychologist; thus I’m more interested in the “deep and meaningful” conversations that Chameli and Aman have about life rather than the criminal activities associated with the world of prostitution.

Final Verdict: Chameli is an artsy film so if you prefer masala entertainment, you can gladly skip this one. If you’re fascinated by different types of people and human nature, it’s an interesting watch.

NOTE: I would definitely consider this film rated R for mature content, language, and violence so it is not recommended for children.

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