Chhapaak Movie Review: Deepika Padukone as an acid attack survivor is one of the best performance of a female lead in Hindi Cinema.
Last Modified On: 31 January 2020 | Reviewed By: Saurabh S Nair
Chhapaak is a heartbreaking film about an acid attack survivor. The screenplay of the film has some flaws but the film still strong because of it's content.
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Cast: Deepika Padukone, Vikrant Massey
Directed By: Meghna Gulzar
Last year, in Malayalam movie Uyare we saw a fictional story of a girl who is acid attacked by her boyfriend and brilliantly showcased the struggle of a woman and patriarchal society.
Meghna Gulzar's Chhapaak has the same plot but the brutality of acid attack is not fiction but based on the real-life incident that happened with Laxmi Aggarwal.
The opening shot of the film recreates the protests that followed the Delhi gang-rape case in 2012, setting the tone for Chhapaak. Based on a real-life incident of acid attack violence and a survivor’s (Laxmi Aggarwal) story, the film starring Deepika Padukone as the protagonist leaves an impact though it lacks the shock value that one would expect from watching a film about such a heinous hate crime.
Director Meghna Gulzar, who has earlier helmed Talvar and Raazi, once again treats her story with maturity and doesn’t get carried away. She understands the nuances of the subject and instead of evoking sympathy, she sends out a stronger message of standing tall and celebrating life even after you’ve faced adversity at its worst.
Chhapaak narrates the story of 19-year-old Malti (Padukone) who, as a happy teenager, aspired to be a singer, but chhapaak of acid changes the course of her life. Her life, now, revolves around working for an NGO for acid attack victims, battling her court case and getting corrective surgeries at the hospital. For those creating a ruckus over how the makers have changed the religion of the attacker in the film, that’s not true. The man is named Bashir Khan aka Babbu and Rajesh turns out to be Malti’s boyfriend.
The film starts from Malti’s present day when she is hunting for a job, having mustered the courage to come out of the emotional trauma the acid attack wreaked on her. The physical scars still haunt her and I quite like the references to that -- the interview where Malti says ‘There’s no category called acid attack survivors or else I would have ticked it’, or when she’s told ‘beauty parlour mein kaam karne ke liye beauty ka hona jaruri hai’.
The win for Chhapaak lies in its crisp narrative, backed by some solid performances by each one of the cast. Leading this talented pack is Deepika Padukone, the Pretty-Face Padukone, who let go of that face for this film. Deepika bites hard into Malti and makes you sit up and squirm with her, scream with her when she first sees her new face. As she looks at the mirror and tries inserting a jhumka through her earlobe, and then realizes the acid has taken even that away, you hear her heartbreaking. That the director uses 'har ghadi badal rahi hai roop Zindagi' in the background, on that same radio, is a kick in your gut. You realize what half an Rs-30 bottle of acid does.
Chhapaak has several moments where you feel the pain of an acid attack survivor -- the scene where Deepika screams looking at her face in the mirror for the first time after the attack, or when she is trying to put an earring but can’t are heart-wrenching. Her agony and helplessness touch your heart; more so because at no point Meghna makes her protagonist beg for sympathy or let her succumb to self-pity. Instead, she is shown to empower herself and many others, finding her self-worth and making the most of the life that she has to live after the unfortunate incident.
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Deepika Padukone gets into the skin of Malti’s character without any difficulty. Two years after playing a queen in Padmaavat, she eschews all vanity to play an acid attack victim and does full justice to it. Even her prosthetic makeup deserves applause because, with such a sensitive and delicate subject, you can easily go wrong. Don’t miss the minutest of detailing like Malti still uses a Nokia 3310 (as the story is set in 2005) and each time she erases a message, it makes you nostalgic thinking of the time when the phone was really popular.
Vikrant Massey as a former journalist, Amol Dixit, who now runs an NGO, is a great casting call for a role that needed to be loud yet subtle. He not only looks convincing in his role but also supports Deepika in their scenes together.
However, their chemistry doesn’t really stand out. It would really not have made any difference to the story if there was no love angle at all between the two.
Chhapaak is an important film in today's society where a girl is judged by her face and brutality of people which is not seen in their faces. This hypocrisy will be reflected in you as an audience after watching Chhapaak and we have a human being who should be ashamed of this.
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