Overall, I’d give Chalo Koi Baat Nahi a solid, reasonable 3 out of 5 stars. Perhaps, if the script improves over the next few seasons, this will turn into something truly great.
Chalo Koi Baat Nahi Review
Despite the fact that I haven’t travelled by train in seven years, I have some vivid memories of Indian trains. As in the adventure sports of rising up at 5 a.m. for a 5 a.m. arrival, which was the case everytime I returned to my hometown during college vacations.
That ‘ta-DAA’ sound between announcements was my personal Pavlovian hell: it jolted my brain from REM cycle to half-sleep to fear in approximately two and a half seconds.
Last night, I laughed for the first time at that ‘ta-DAA,’ thanks to episode 5 of the new SonyLiv sketch comedy programme Chalo Koi Baat Nahi, hosted by actors Vinay Pathak and Ranvir Shorey and devised by comedians Gursimran Khamba and Amit Tandon.
In Episode 5, Trains, Kavita Kaushik (the brilliant comedic actress best known for her starring role in the long-running show FIR) does an intricate 7-minute comedy in which she lays down the eccentricities of Indian Railways while in character as a persnickety announcer.
It’s a lot of fun to watch Kaushik ridicule passengers who, for example, aren’t above stealing a blanket or pillow. “These stains are precisely what you think they are,” she says, “yeh daag wahi hain, wahin hain jo aap soch rahe hain.” Or the seemingly unavoidable occurrence of middle-berth teenagers stomping elderly passengers who are deep asleep on the lower berth while trying to pee (“Inhein Mumbai jaana hai, Haridwar nahi”).
To be honest, the writing in Chalo Koi Baat Nahi isn’t that impressive. A more appropriate description would be ‘competent with occasional dashes of innovation.’ The programme, on the other hand, is boosted by its superb cast of ‘character actors,’ as the oxymoronic term goes.
Kaushik is far from alone in this regard. Vibha Chibber, who is most known for her scintillating appearance as a Meerut judge in Jolly LLB and for her role as Assistant Coach Krishnaji in Chak De! India, shines in Episode 1 as India’s Environment Minister.
Environment, the first episode, offers a number of great highlights, including a punchy, surrealist ‘weather woman’ bit performed by Ismeet Kohli, who is clearly one to watch in the future.
Later in the programme, there’s a comedy about climate change with a bold primary conceit: in the world of cricket, Test matches have vanished, and fast bowling has become extinct because no one is physically capable of running in and bowling quickly for five days in the Indian summer.
It’s the type of bumbling comedy that shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does. Furthermore, it does a great job of parodying the ‘BBC Indian documentary’ approach, right down to the interview manner, the not-so-subtle Orientalism, and the obligatory (and cringe-inducing) sitar music right at the start. It’s this kind of meticulous attention to visual and auditory detail that elevates humour from ‘adequate’ to ‘fun.’
However, not every episode does it correctly. The Hospitals episode gets off to a great start, with Abish Mathew (I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him so natural in a non-clownish part) and Kriti Vij delivering a fantastic prologue sketch (once again, excellent).
However, it quickly devolves into a succession of stale, predictable gags, including one about a doctor practising fellatio that, well, let’s just say neither physicians nor patients will find amusing. Despite its good intentions, the Education episode falls flat—the jokes simply don’t land well there, I’m afraid.
Every time this happens, however, a familiar rescue act is performed to save Chalo Koi Baat Nahi. Of course, we’re talking about Ranvir Shorey and Vinay Pathak reunited, who are unquestionably the Indian comedy’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
From their VJ double acts in the 1990s to films like Jism, Bheja Fry, and Khosla Ka Ghosla, there’s no denying that these two have more chemistry than many married couples. And, while they’re still as funny as ever, it’s not simply satire that they excel at: they can also deliver a softly devastating, scene-ending zinger.
They can do direct pathos, slapstick, and old-fashioned theatrical, among other things. At the close of the first episode, Pathak and Shorey team up with Suresh Menon to perform what’s essentially a ‘nukkad-naatak’ (street play) style poetry parodying Amitabh Bachchan’s gooey UP Tourism ads; the poem, however, is a critique of Delhi’s air pollution levels. “Aankhon mein aisi jalan jaise dhoyaa ho unhe red chilli mein, kuch din toh guzaariye Dilli mein” (Come on up and spend some time in Dilli).