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Chala Mussaddi Office Office  : A ho-hum day in the office
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Friday, August 5, 2011
Rajiv Mehra
Pankaj Kapur, Farida Jalal, Deven Bhojani, Manoj Pahwa, Sanjay Mishra, Hemant Pandey, Asawari Joshi, Makrand Deshpande, Gaurav Kapur
A knockoff from the good old sitcom Office Office, it’s a well-meant but plodding attempt to put forth the story of one man’s struggle against corruption, laced with laboured snatches of comedy.

The plot: Upright Mussaddi Lal Tripathi (Pankaj Kapur), ‘Retired schoolmaster, Mahatma Gandhi School, Lal Ganj Zila, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India’, is the epitome of the ‘mango people’, aka aam aadmi.
In the twilight of his life, this man of principles encounters a bunch of odd characters who either compel him to bribe them or just test his patience. After his beloved wife Shanti’s (Farida Jalal) death, once again due to the leech named corruption, Mussaddi encounters it time and again as he journeys to submerge his wife’s ashes at pious places. All he has left is his pension, till this too gets snatched away from him due to a sarkari karmchaari’s irresponsibility in declaring him dead. Five government servants – Bhatia (Manoj Pahwa), Shukla (Sanjay Mishra), Patel (Deven Bhojani), Pandeyji (Hemant Pandey) and Usha (Asawari Joshi) – have siphoned the amount, so no way will they allow him to come alive in their books.
Now Mussadi Lal has to prove that he is alive, and a herculean task it proves to be.  He must go door-to-door to get proof of his existence and even fork over a bribe to one of his own ex-students, to extricate himself from a mess that’s not of his making.

The good: The film retains an element of freshness despite the same characters playing different roles. The peculiar traits of each person are retained and not a single actor looks out of character. All the five government servants stand out and no one overshadows the other. But definitely it’s Pankaj Kapur who takes centrestage with his quintessential portrayal of the common man.
The story by Ashwani Dhir mantains a flow throughout, keeping each separate episode distinct. But it gets tiresome and considering it comes from a sitcom, there’s very feeble humour all through the film.
The cinematography by Carlton D’Mello is intricate and full of meaning. One of the shots that stays with you is of Mussaddi standing tall right in front of India Gate, the symbolism making its impact.
The music by Sajid-Wajid add a ‘common man’ earthy feel to the film.
Tiny details, like Mussaddi reading a newspaper with a headline saying ‘enough of tolerance’ add value.
The direction by Rajiv Mehra is decent enough and the dialogues with lines like “Hum sarkari karmcharihai koi bimari nahin jo theek ho jaayenge”, reflect the current mood. 

The bad: The story has loopholes and some artifice. The climax where the five hardened government servants start fighting among themselves in front of the judge, instigated by Mussaddi, is contrived since they are too shrewd and seasoned to fall into such a trap.
Mussaddi’s son, the transient, unemployed Bunty, played by Gaurav Kapur, is a tad random and has no continuity, he is there one moment and the next moment he isn’t. No one knows where he’s disappeared till we see him in the end.
The film could have been fresher and more novel by depicting different ways of fighting corruption.

Overall: A film with a lot of wishful thinking. A brave attempt at making a film from a sitcom after the Khichdi disaster.

– Pooja Thakkar

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