What happens when the men in our society stop understanding a simple word which we learn from the moment we could speak or understand – No. It becomes so toxic that it destroys life. Directed by Meghna Gulzaar, Chhapaak is based on the life of Laxmi Aggarwal, the acid attack survivor who had filed a PIL in 2006 which sought framing of a new section for this heinous crime.
Directed by- Meghna Gulzar
Produced by- Deepika Padukone, Fox Star Studios
Prosthetic by- Clover Wootton
Starring- Deepika Padukone, Vikrant Massey, Madhurjeet Sarghi
Malti (name changed from Laxmi) played by Deepika Padukone is a nineteen-year-old schoolgirl, who was proposed by a thirty-year-old Basheer Shaikh (name changed from Nadeem Khan), who also happens to be a family friend. When not reciprocated the same way, Basheer flung acid at Malti at Mayur market in broad daylight in the capital.
It is a new fad to create controversy around a film even before its release. So, let’s get aside from the controversies first so that you can watch the movie without any preconceived notions.
Padukone’s presence at JNU on the eve of January 7 to show her solidarity with the students against the mob lynching inside the campus has been blown out of proportion as a PR strategy. Where big names could not stand for what is right and what isn’t, even if for public relations, she chose to stand with the students vilified by a particular organisation. Well then, if PR strategies involve standing up for the betterment, I’m all for it.
It has also been making headlines that the makers have changed the attacker’s name to Rajesh from Nadeem Khan to protect certain religious identity is misleading.
Coming back to the film, set in New Delhi, the story of Chhapaak has been kept a fusion of reality mixed with drama. The film opens with protestors protesting at India gate holding placards asking justice for Jyoti Singh (Nirbhaya), 2012 gang-rape murder case. And from the beginning shot, it gives you a hint that the watch is not going to be an easy one since Nirbhaya’s case was real, Laxmi’s acid attack is real and so is her public interest litigation (PIL).
Instead of a linear narrative, the story runs in a back and forth account of the assault. And the incident is shown twice – once in the beginning as we see her disfigured face right from the start and at the end where the details of the whole incident are given. Something that is done in Pink as well – where the entire court drama and the investigation goes based on the point of views of both the parties. In contrast, in Chhapaak the incident is already told in the beginning, hence looks unnecessary.
Despite the subject being extremely sensitive, the film could have gone wrong in a thousand different ways. But it somehow manages to measure the portrayal and keep it in control. And in the process, the film leaves with a dearth of affecting quality. You see, you empathise, you are scared but somehow not reaches you.
There are certain scenes which intended to be powerful in its message but had a song in the background – which makes it look intentionally poetic, which further shows Gulzar’s being too cautious of the subtlety.
In an interview, Meghna Gulzar said that Laxmi’s features have a resemblance with that of Deepika’s. True that, when you watch her on-screen as Malti, will help you relate with Laxmi if you have seen her enough. Also, a strong performer as she is, the film is equally elevated by actors like Vikrant Massey as Amol and so wonderful Madhurjeet Sarghi as Malti’s lawyer.
In one hand where the film deals with an assault of such kind, on the other, it has wonderfully shown that the world has kind people too.
Unlike the quintessential films, Chhapaak is centred around women with a female lead, whose face is hidden under prosthetics, dealing with a subject which one could never imagine in the mainstream cinema, makes it an important Hindi film of the year.