Bringing to you the real life story of acid-attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal, Meghna Gulzar churns up an earnest attempt to hit every emotional chord…does she succeed though? Hmm, let’s find out!
Rating – 3.5 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐½
When we stop for a moment and think about Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi (2018), our hearts overdoze on a bittersweet happiness and our chests swell up with pride. The Meghna-Alia lethal combo made sure our eyes were glued to the screen till even after the end credits. But when I came out of the theatre from watching Chhapaak, I was convinced there was something missing – a lack of soul, a lack of conviction or maybe just the lack of a gripping enough plot? Not quite sure what exactly it was, but the fact that we had the award-winning Deepika Padukone as the lead, it sucks that a “could-have-been blockbuster” ends up as just another above-average semi-disrupting film.
Based on the story of Laxmi Agarwal, the film trails Malti (Deepika Padukone), a sweet, simple middle-class girl living under the roof of a wealthy family in New Delhi, for whom her parents work. She was approached by a family-friend acquaintance, Basheer Shaikh aka Bablu (Vishal Dahiya), whose creepy “romantic” feelings she didn’t respond to, resulting in him carrying out an acid attack on Malti. What follows is a broken, spiritless Malti, who, after 7 plastic surgeries and ample support from her family, picks up the pieces of her fragmented soul and decides to fight for her justice – leading to a cascade of “court-kacheri” to put Bablu to punishment as well as commence the movement to ban the use of acid.
Chhapaak’s biggest drawback is that it doesn’t dive deep into the real spirit of Laxmi’s story (which is why we’re here, right?). It’s one of those formulaic textbook movies that has fixed start and end points and moderately dwells into the reality of the incident throughout its length. Maybe not intentionally, but the film does take on a slightly filmy tint in some areas, which takes away from the reality and amplitude of the situation. Chhapaak pretty much oscillates between some unstimulating “court-kacheri” scenes and the mental trauma faced by Malti and her loved ones – although the concept seemed straightforward and proper, the execution definitely missed out on that much-needed intensity and soul-stirring moments, rendering the film as overall patchy.
“Kitna accha hota agar acid bikta hi nahi…milta hi nahi toh, phikta bhi nahi”
Regardless of whatever complaints I have with Miss Gulzar’s filmmaking, we witness a powerful, determined Deepika Padukone shines through and isn’t that why half of you bought your movie tickets? DP’s acting was strong yet subtle and what I particularly loved was that her emotional and mental turmoil was hidden in certain oh-so-hard-hitting moments. As second lead, we have the gorgeous cutie Vikrant Massey (who, sadly, we don’t see until post-intermission). Although we’ve never doubted Massey’s performance skills, especially after watching him in Hotstar’s Criminal Justice, there was something gravely off about the chemistry between the hero-heroine. I thought the “silent pyaar” was a nice touch and the difference in opinion between the two, sketched out intelligently through their conversations was highly stimulating, however, Deepika-Vikrant’s love angle served no real purpose as such and could have ideally been avoided.
Chhapaak’s greatest strength was its ability to raise relevant questions and reflect upon some truly important analytic questions. In a scene on a bus, Vikrant Massey says “Acid pehle dimaag mein milta hai” when asked what it really takes for someone to do such a horrible thing. Writer Meghna Gulzar leaves no stone unturned in her method to capture the psychology of such an incident. In one scene, we witness Malti angrily throwing away a whole lot of her things, saying “kaan nahi hai, naak nahi hai, jhumke kahaan pehnu?”, whereas later, in an attempt to reassure her mother, Malti asks “ab isse bura aur kya ho sakta hai?” – it is this effective, convincing transition that gives Chhapaak the credibility it deserves to open some eyes and touch several hearts.
Despite slacking off a bit in terms of intensity and quality filmmaking, Chhapaak remains a film that needs to be watched and heard in its entirety. Looks like we’re off to a tab start with 2020, right? But let’s hope this year is filled with lots & lots of super-duper-hits!
Chhapaak se…pehchaan le gaya!
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