Just when the audience was getting used to the face of Malti, an acid attack survivor played by Deepika Padukone in Chhapaak, director Meghna Gulzar decides to show us how Malti looked like before she was attacked. And the entire audience reacted to that silent visual with a huge “Uffff”. Even if you are a diehard fan of the actress and follow her on her social media platforms and are familiar with her face when this scene happens, that “Ufffff” will come from you naturally. For me, that scene and the reaction to that encapsulates the quality, importance and the impact of this well made drama directed by Meghna Gulzar.
Malti our central protagonist is an acid attack victim. At a very young age of 19, she was attacked by her family friend. The movie as you all can guess is about the legal and mental challenges that were ahead of Malti. How she overcame all that is what the movie Chhapaak which is loosely based on the real-life of Laxmi Agarwal showing us.
While watching the trailer we all are pretty clear about what the story is. There are no twists and turns here to surprise you and Meghna Gulzar knows that. We are introduced to Malti in the movie after she had gone through the whole trauma 7 years ago. Chhapaak then goes back to the traumatic phase post the attack where the character is clueless and totally devastated. And then post-interval we are again in the present. Yes, I got confused about the years they put on the bottom left corner of the screen because of this back-and-forth narrative. But at the same time, this back and forth nature of the story made the predictable story all the more interesting. There are two cases that are happening in the movie. One was to ban acid and the other was against the gruesome crime committed against Malti. And the movie sort of manages to balance both cases by keeping us interested in the verdict of both.
Deepika Padukone has done an excellent job of portraying the excruciating pain of Malti and also that likable adamant nature. The scene you guys have seen in the trailer where she screams seeing her face on a mirror is heart-wrenching. Her performance never goes to that theatrical way of acting and that helps the movie a lot in being rooted in reality. The chemistry between her and Vikrant Massey is also captured very beautifully. Vikrant Massey isn’t doing an extensive character in the movie and yet he captures the angst of that character beautifully. He has played with the body language quite effectively to show the basic emotion of the character in a scene instead of using a lot of facial expressions. Vishal Dahiya plays the role of the antagonist and was effective in the role. Meghna Gulzar has picked up a bunch of really good actors like Madhurjeet Sarghi, Manohar Teli, Payal Nair, etc who looked perfect for the roles assigned to them.
The movie is not ending like everything is now safe and secure in our country. Meghna Gulzar as a director is clear that her movie should give the viewer a sense of shock rather than the comfort of seeing a story that ended beautifully. And we do get to witness the depth of the horror and humiliation these girls went through at regular intervals of time. When the movie occasionally slips into that banter between Amol and Malti in a romantic mood, we actually feel a sense of relaxation. The writing smartly incorporates the insensitive laws in the country that helps the attackers to escape easily. Meghna also places the ideal male characters in modern society through this movie; the character played by Anand Tiwari for example. Malai Prakash’s visuals are largely comprised of medium close up shots making it a more character-focused narrative. The songs written by Gulzar and composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy merged with the narrative effectively.
If you compare Chhapaak with other movies of Meghna Gulzar, you can sense a bit of playing for the gallery kind of thing happening in the narrative. But the subject here is such that this movie reaching the least common denominator is an essential thing and minor tweaks are not an issue as the movie never tries to spoon-feed its viewers. Chhapaak is a genuine and hard-hitting social commentary that one should watch.
Chhapaak is a genuine and hard-hitting social commentary that one should watch.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended