I recently stumbled upon a video of an American YouTuber discussing Indian men’s obsession with gemstone-embedded rings. While the tourist assumed it to be a fashion statement, his observation was quite on point—we Indians are obsessed with astrology, and it is not a recent phenomenon. Historically, astrologers played a decisive role in the Indian subcontinent, and even with technological advancement, the importance of astrology has not disappeared. With believers demanding the introduction of astrology courses at the university level, it is evident how Indians prioritize their planetary positioning. The gemstones are said to nullify or at least bring into control the threats (impact) that the position of the planets, according to one’s astrological charts, brings (or at least that is my understanding of the matter). In Choona, astrology plays a significant role in the plot, and it is pretty much the driving force of the series.
The stars have aligned for Choona, as the plot, character arcs, and humor tick all the right boxes. Even though the first episode was not as impressive, the series gradually picks up pace and builds intrigue. The visual effects do the job but are not thoroughly convincing, though once the comedy is introduced, the need for exact replication disappears. The presence of the narrator is heavily felt in the series. Arshad Warsi is the man behind the voice, and while he does his job well, the constant commentary and explanation feel a little overbearing. The advantage of having a narrator is that it makes the series more cohesive and less lengthy. What seemed missing was the identity of the narrator—who is narrating the story and how is he familiar with the characters?—questions that remain unanswered in the course of the series.
Starring Jimmy Shergill, Namit Das, and Aashim Gulati, Choona has a rather simplistic plot with a politician at the center of the drama and a heist planned over the course of the eight episodes. Heading the heist team was Ansari Sheikh, a local thug whose goal was to make it big as a politician. Every member of the team was wronged by Shukla, and they had only one intention: vengeance. The people planning the heist and the heist itself are what generate interest. Characters are prioritized, and we get to know each one of them pretty well. Even though the plot is as simple as it can get, the characters make the series worth watching. Choona keeps the anticipation going till the very last episode, and the climax is thrilling, but it lacks the extra punch that would have sealed the deal to perfection. Out of all the characters, each unique in their own ways and quirks, Bela is written brilliantly. A failed policewoman but a successful journalist, Bela radiates confidence. Born in a small town with her protective cop brother always by her side, Bela found her voice and independence in her own way. It felt like a win to watch Bela shoot gangsters and escape from her own kidnapping all by herself. She surely needed no saving. The turn that Bela and Ansari’s romance took was unexpected and refreshing.
There were moments in Choona that evoked old Bollywood, particularly through the background score. The coming together of a student activist, a priest, a cop, a thug, and a constructor is thoroughly entertaining, and honestly, you can just watch Choona for this motley crowd. After watching the trailer, you might have assumed that Jimmy Shergill’s Shukla is the main character, and while that is true, Pushpendra Nath Mishra (writer, Taj Mahal 1989) gives equal importance to the supporting characters. It takes a little time to get accustomed to the strange politician that is Shukla, and Jimmy Shergill strikes the perfect balance, bringing in both humor and also a sense of overconfidence and pride. Ashim Gulati, as the local thug Ansari, is convincing. He captures both Ansari’s charm and confidence in his professional life and the innocent romantic that he turned into when with Bela. One of the most memorable characters in the series is played by Namit Das.
Triloki, the student activist cum con-artist cum impersonator, is a treat to watch, and all credit goes to Namit Das (Aarya, Wake Up Sid). His transition from the aghori astrologer to a regular man is smooth, and even though the character is eccentric, Das makes Triloki absolutely believable. Popular for playing Vikas in “Panchayat,” Chandan Roy returns to the screen as the mute assistant of Shukla, Bishnu. With few words spoken, Chandan’s Bishnu manages to create a lasting impact. Gyanendra Tripati plays the role of Ansari’s best friend, Baankey, and the duo is absolutely comical (don’t miss the scene where Baankey and Ansari have a lengthy discussion on the usage of guns before going to save Bela). A series around astrology without a Panditji would have remained incomplete, and we have Atul Srivastava playing the role to perfection. Monika Panwar (Super 30, Class of ’83, Dukaan) is cast as the rule-breaker, Bela, and she shines through her performance. Niharika Lyra Dutt does justice to the tech-enthusiast Jhumpa. Vikram Kochhar brings out the funny as the drunk contractor, J.P. Yadav.
Choona has an overall desaturated tone, and while it complements the political undertone of the series, it also very well contrasts the humorous aspect of it. Thematically, Choona offers to say something profound—how humans tend to overlook their faults and put their complete faith in astrology. The creator is aware of the sentiment around astrology and tackles it tactfully. Astrology is not criticized per se; rather, it is presented as something that predominantly exists in our society, and it all comes down to the individual to decide whether to prioritize the planetary position or become a better person to change their luck. Overall, Choona is a decent Netflix watch that balances humor and drama pretty well. Its element of quirk and the characters are definitely worth watching for.