critic’s rating: 



3.5/5

Raises a burning issue

Laxmi Agarwal is a real-life acid attack survivor. She was brutally attacked by a man while in her teens who threw acid on her when she refused to marry him. From being a helpless victim, she turned into a gritty survivor over the years and later became a crusader for the upliftment of acid attack victims. Deepika Padukone’s character Malti is reportedly based on Laxmi’s life. The actress hasn’t just essayed the lead role, she is one of the producers of the film as well. Deepika Padukone’s beauty is legendary and it’s a bold move indeed for her to begin her innings as a producer with a film where her face is disfigured almost the entire length. We often accuse our commercial stars of not being serious to their craft and just coasting on their beauty, their charisma and this film shows that times are indeed changing. That top commercial stars too are willing to take risks.

This isn’t a film for the weak-hearted. The viewer isn’t spared anything here. Prosthetics and deft makeup ensure that we notice the changes that acid brings on the affected skin in all its brutality. Deepika looks something straight out of a horror film as her skin erodes. The film also shows that regeneration surgery is both time and money consuming. Malti thankfully gets a wealthy benefactor but not everyone is so lucky. The film bats for stricter punishment for the culprits. It also points out that it’s dead easy to buy acid in our country and steps should be undertaken to ensure acid isn’t readily available over the counter. Also, the judiciary takes its own time reaching a conclusion. It’s a long, hard fight in most cases and not only the girls get demotivated by this lethargic pace, but they also lack the financial wherewithal to keep fighting the case over huge periods of time. The film urges that such cases should be fast-tracked, with minimum harassment meted to the aggrieved party by the judiciary and the police.

But the film isn’t just a gloomy courtroom drama. It also points out that it’s important for such girls to stop feeling like a victim. They shouldn’t let tragedy rule their entire life. In one scene, Vikrant Massey’s character tells Deepika to not look so happy as he’s taping an interview. To which she replies that she doesn’t want to curb her happiness. Despite being qualified, Malti finds it hard to land a job and the film tells us that we need to be more humane as a society and help towards the rehabilitation of those whose life has been turned into a living hell through no fault of their own.

The culprit belongs to the minority community, and director Meghna Gulzar has sensitively handled that issue by not bringing religion into the play here. Kudos to her for that. The film ends on a positive note, with Malti finding love in the form of Vikrant Massey’s character, who runs an NGO for acid attack victims. Everyone craves love but unfortunately, like beauty, it’s also skin deep. So it’s good to show that there are people around who can look beyond that.

Playing her most challenging role so far, Deepika Padukone breathes life into every frame. She isn’t a superstar playing a super glamorous role here and makes us believe we’re watching the travails of a normal girl. Vikrant Massey is a fine actor indeed with a tendency to underplay characters and he’s all that and more, playing a man who runs his NGO with the passion of a zealot. Madhurjeet Sarghi too is a delight as the dedicated lawyer who stays with Malti all the way.

With another mature, cause-based film in her kitty, Meghna Gulzar has once again shown it’s possible to marry art with mart. The statistics showcased in Chhapaak about acid attack victims are horrifying indeed and let’s hope the lessons learnt from the film helps reduce them in the coming years…

Trailer : Chhapaak

Sreeparna Sengupta, January 9, 2020, 3:32 AM IST


critic’s rating: 



3.5/5


STORY: The life of a nineteen-year-old girl takes a turn when she is subjected to a horrific acid attack. But she resolves to fight for justice and reclaim her life.

REVIEW:
Meghna Gulzar’s ‘Chhapaak’ is based on the story of real life acid attack survivor, Laxmi Agarwal, who has become a symbol of strength and inspiration for many women. The film is a fictionalized account with Deepika Padukone playing the central character Malti, who is attacked in broad daylight on the streets of Delhi by a friend of the family, Bashir Khan aka Babbu and his aide.
As the narrative chooses a non-linear route, we first meet Malti when she is on a job hunt – consciously trying to move on from the emotional scars that the heinous crime has left her with. For the physical scars, she has to go through a number of complicated surgeries. In fact, far from the dreams she nursed of being a singer, her life is now an intersection of her work with an NGO for acid victims, her multiple surgeries and her court cases. Yet, the film steers away from melodrama or manipulation, and instead gives us a powerful protagonist whose resolve to fight is punctuated with her determined smiles, the pain in her eyes and her indomitable spirit.

As support from her family dwindles owing to her brother’s illness and father’s death, it is Malti’s lawyer Archana (Madhurjeet Sarghi), who stands by her through her arduous journey. From Malti’s PIL to ban the sale of acid to amendments in the acid violence legislation, her team of women lawyers, take on the system. Her other main support comes from Amol (Vikrant Massey), who employs her to work for his NGO.

Deepika Padukone is the soul of the film, delivering a brilliant, immersive performance. In fact, there are many scenes where her act will move you to tears – like the one where she holds up an earring to her face but realizes now she can’t put it on. Or her piercing cry when she sees her face for the first time in a mirror after the attack. And one where she determinedly tells Amol, “Mujhe party karni hain.” Precisely why Malti’s character is a winner because at no point does she succumb to self-pity.

Both Vikrant Massey and Madhurjeet Sarghi pitch in very commendable performances. The story sends out a strong message and is undoubtedly a brave attempt, however the edit seems choppy in places and certain parts of the narrative seem a tad stretched in the second half. The music tracks stand out – with ‘Chhapaak’ title track and ‘Nok Jhok’ (soundtrack by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, lyrics by Gulzar) adding to the poignancy of the mood.

‘Chhapaak’ is not a film that’s lets you go easy, just as one begins to settle in to think Malti has managed to get better of her perpetrator, it jolts you with a few grim, uncomfortable reminders.

‘Chhaapak’ is a sensitive film with a delicate, yet powerful, handling of a heinous crime against women, and an important story that needs to be heard.





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