By Neha Bora
‛Chappak’ is a movie like no other being made in Hindi cinema. It is so effortlessly real that one sits down to the opening credits and doesn’t realise when the film has ended. It is like a conversation and its existence is inarguable.
Meghna Gulzar’s ‛Chappak‘ is inspired by the life and work of Laxmi and the ‛Stop Acid Attack’ campaign. Gulzar opens her film in the middle of the 2012 outrage with protesters demanding death for the accused. Amidst the ‛currently’ all too relatable shots of water canon and lathi charge comes a man struggling to get the camera’s attention on the picture of an acid attack victim. Foreshadowing the sequence of events that are to unfold over the course of the film.
We, finally meet Malati, who is struggling to get a job like any other person her age could have been, but in all the rejection she faces is an allusion to the acid attack that is an inseparable part of her life. She then meets Anmol and starts working at ‛Chayya’, an NGO that works to support victims of acid attacks. The film then breaks linearity to reconstruct the events of Malati’s life immediately after the acid attack.
The first police statement, the slow melting of the skin, the surgeries, the realisation that she didn’t look the same anymore to the world and hence, she couldn’t be the same anymore, all slide onto the screen effortlessly. There isn’t one moment in the film which seems out of place. The film flows in one rhythm and the emotions of triumph, helplessness or pain are all as essential to the script as they are to the life of a person. The story then jumps 7 years ahead to introduce us to real women with real stories of horrid acid attacks. We see moments of defeat, moments of malice, and moments of love, all of which have been portrayed with utmost delicacy by Deepika Padukone.
We see two very different ways of activism. The activism of Anmol and the activism of Malati, and the absence of drama and conflict between the two. The story takes us back to the exact moment of the attack, time and again, perhaps to also mimic the moments’ existence in the lives of those who live through it.
The one songs that reiterates throughout the film is the title track ‛Chappak Se Pehchan Le Gaya’ and it is beautiful. It brings to life everything the movie tries to underline and its tune sticks to us long after the horror it speaks of has settled within us.
The script writing is so excellent that its seams and folds are invisible. Atika Chauhan and Meghna Gulzar have done a masterful job of it. Meghna, whose trademark non-masculine storey telling that was so beautifully evident in ‛Raazi’ can be seen in ‛Chappak’ too. The audience watches the movie and knows the maker and creator is not a man. The audience also knows, the vision of the film comes from a person with immense finesse and control over her craft. The film makes no effort to glorify the struggle of the survivors, nor does it make Malati or Anmol heroic.
The acting in the film is highly appreciable. The audience realises that Deepika’s performance in the film is a result of extreme hard work and talent. The little mouse-like laughter, the deliberately lowered decibels of her voice, the innocence of a 19 year old girl from a lower middle class family are all on point.
She is an undeniably talented actor. Several critics have in the past commended Deepika on her ability to act with her eyes, but it was Vikrant Massey, who was ‛oh-so-delicate’ is his performance. To perform a controlling and sulking boss amidst the women whose fight the entire movie is an allude to, and still be genuinely endearing is a talent most don’t possess. In a film that examines masculinity so closely, Vikrant Massey will be dearly loved. His is a talent, the commercial industry might have refused to acknowledge, but he has never succumbed to mediocre acting as a result of it.
But, the film does more!
The film refuses to build hype. The film refuses to make the sequence of events a detective case. The film refuses to get consumed in the debate of beauty that so heavily lies at the core of ‛acid attacks’ for many. It tells the story of Malati’s (actually every survivor and activist’s) struggle and triumph and in the end gives you the statistics of the increasing acid attacks in the country, the recent of which took place not more than a month ago.
It tells you of the parallel world that lies beside the one you live in. Moreover, it makes us not only look at but also listen to women whose faces we would have avoiding looking at had they passed us by. Filmifiles.com is a website which offers news, views and even the inside stories from the glamour world be it Bollywood or Hollywood, for those who love the world of movies, stars and the art of cinema.
FF Rating:- 4/5
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