wogma rating: The keen must watch on screen; else TV/online (?)
The extra effort to not make it exploitative is evident. The audience is guided to follow the victims’ lead—be with what is and what can be, rather than what has been. In the process, the film misses out on becoming an immersive experience, and we get a breezy film on a weighty topic.Read more
That there is a romantic story weaved into the social cause gives me hope that this won’t be an exploitative film. That is a good enough starting point for a film about the struggles of a woman. That women are at the helm of affairs is even more reassuring. Yes, my job from now until the 10th is to keep expectations in check.
Chhapaak releases on 10 January 2020.
- meeta, a part of the audience
“Malti is so cute,” that is the last thought I expected myself to have while walking out of the theatre. The simple intent of Chhapaak shines through, “humanising acid attack victims.” The writers had a clear brief, “The movie should convey that the acid attack survivors are more than that one barbaric moment in their life. They have problems beyond being victims, and they can enjoy happiness despite those problems. Even if society never lets them forget, including those who love and care for them.” A brief that worked even if the film becomes documentary-like along the way, in a story which has to be predictable because it largely sticks to real-life events.
As if the film very subtly conveyed that a smooth life turned into one episode of protest and/or struggle after another.
This focus on other aspects doesn’t allow us room to feel pity for the characters. In fact, they are a source of inspiration because of their acceptance of the cards that fate dealt them, and their willingness to fight so that others can be saved from similar fates. However, this focus also keeps you at an emotional distance from the characters.
And thus in trying to avoid the risk of becoming emotionally manipulative, the film is not able to make me feel too strongly. At least in the first half. Pre-interval, the film is rather episodic and runs through all the important ‘events’ in the journey of the fight. Malti’s (Deepika Padukone) disillusionment is hinted upon, but you aren’t allowed to feel it too deeply. At the times when she feels a sense of duty towards her family, you are asked to accept that the people around her know her mind better than her. They convince/guilt-trip her into what she really wants to do—fight. And it happens a little too quickly.
In the second half, though, the film finds a rhythm and the flow gets smoother. Post-interval you also find important scenes and good lines that are not mentioned in the trailer, making it a little less predictable than the first half. Here Malti is allowed to be human—herself, not larger than herself. As if the film very subtly conveyed that a smooth life turned into one episode of protest and/or struggle after another. Almost convincing you that the changes to the chronology were towards this end and to minimise the drama. A bold choice, which might have worked against the film a bit.
Unfortunately, some of this subtlety goes missing with things being over-explained at times and repetitive at others. Also, it might have worked better if they had someone else play the younger Malti, instead of having Deepika play a 19-year-old. Sure, Deepika is cute, and you don’t mind her teenagery giggles. She is equally charming when she turns into a resolute-cum-shy young Malti. Vikrant Massey and Madhurjeet Sarghi lend as much support to Deepika Padukone as Amol and Archana Bajaj, their characters empower Malti. I even enjoyed the cheesiness of the romance because of the chemistry between Deepika and Vikrant.
That aside, Chhapaak makes several social comments in passing such as caste and fear of government. It starts out with the big one, that of one type of crime being worse than another. Then comes the more obvious one—the party-pooperness and forever cynicism of an angsty activist. But the generosity of an employer stays in the background even as it highlights the huge wealth inequality. The aspirations of a typical middle-class teenager go from becoming an Indian Idol to a fashion designer and end up with a sporadically paying job owing to circumstances. The effect that the special conditions of one sibling have on the other is used to amplify the far-reaching implications of one man not being able to take ‘no’ as an answer. The backstory of the lawyer, Archana Bajaj is interesting but out-of-place. I was wondering why it found its way in the screenplay. And when I found out towards the end of the film, it comes across as forced, even if the social commentary behind it is accurate.
The most allegorical one, though they didn’t know it when they were making the film, was, of course, the discussion amongst lawyers about the difficult position girls are in when they encounter a stalker. “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” Much like the position the lead actress found herself in, in real life, a couple of days before the film’s release.
- meeta, a part of the audience
Thumbs up, by Subhash K Jha, Bolly Spice : ...This is a great film, far greater than Meghna Gulzar’s lauded Talvar and Raazi for only one reason. It knows life’s most precious secret. Pain cannot be cut short by good intentions. Like love, destiny will take its time.... full review
Thumbs up, by SUPARNA SHARMA, Deccan Chronicle : ...Chhapaak’s greatest feat is that it puts the crime front and centre, making the “kyun?”, the why, the peering inquiry into the girl’s, the victim’s life completely irrelevant.... full review
Thumbs up, by Deepa Gahlot, Deepa Gahlot : ...It is a difficult film to watch, but important too– public opinion against this monstrous crime has to be mobilised. The cases of acid attacks have only gone up with time—the film talks about the Preeti Rathi case in Mumbai, among others. Hundreds of women continue to suffer for lack of support. The audience should be mature enough to understand that the actual horror has been considerably toned down for the screen. Even then, the eyes guiltily avert at many points, so the courage of these women has to be doubly applauded.... full review
Thumbs up, by Devesh Sharma, Filmfare : ...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 learned from the film help reduce them in the coming years...... full review
Thumbs up, by Shubha Shetty Saha, Free Press Journal : ...Meghna has handpicked the other actors well and each of them lend good support. Don’t miss this one. It is not comfortable but it is necessary.... full review
Thumbs up, by Punarvasu Pendse, fullhyd.com : ...Yes, it is an important social film. But what makes Chhapaak way more, and ultimately watchable, is the fact that it is a delicately handled piece of film-making that offers a nuanced look at the person, while never being fixated at the heinous crime that affected her.... full review
Thumbs up, by Vishal Verma, Glamsham.com : ...CHHAPAAK painfully confronts a devastating truth and it’s heartfelt throughout. Deepika Padukone anchors this incredibly courageous, soul stirringly uplifting & beautiful story of life and hope that stays with you.... full review
Thumbs up, by Monika Rawal Kukreja, Hindustan Times : ...Chhapaak is a story that makes you sob and smile at the same time. It’s a sensitive, brave and gut-wrenching story that’s not easy to watch, but definitely worth telling.... full review
Thumbs up, by Ananya Bhattacharyal, india today : ...Chhapaak makes you feel every moment of an acid survivor's life. It is a shame therefore that Meghna and her team let the songs hamper the pace of the film. Some of the songs are necessary and don't seem like a hindrance. The title track Chhapaak in Arijit Singh's voice stays with you. The relationship between Deepika and her brother too is left frustratingly unexplored, to the point that not even a word is exchanged between the siblings. At points, the editing is not smooth.... full review
Thumbs up, by Sonal Gera, India TV : ...'Chhapaak' does come with its flaws though. It is no 'Raazi', and it is no 'Filhaal' -- the film actually wanders between Meghna Gulzar's best and worst works (respectively). It is not a biopic, but at a few instances, gives off the vibe of a documentary. The pace becomes excruciatingly slow towards the climactic sequence, and the built-up emotion tends to wither away.... full review
Thumbs up, by Shubhra Gupta, indian express : ...You look at Padukone, so far away from the dressed-up, made-up parts she’s done till now, and acknowledge an actor who wants to break out of her safe zone, to actually inhabit someone else’s skin even if it’s burnt. Yes, it’s worthy, but it’s also very watchable.... full review
Thumbs up, by Ambika Sachin, Khaleej Times : ...In the end, 'Chhapaak' is an empowering movie about more than an acid attack survivor; it is a movie that celebrates the human spirit, the undaunting courage showcased by hundreds of women who have been victimised but refuse to let their scars define them.... full review
Thumbs up, by Umesh Punwani, koimoi : ...All said and done, Chhapaak makes a bold statement exposing the lenient punishment for the heinous crime of acid-attack. It manages to display the pain but defocuses attention through the journey of recovery. It stretches the disturbance!... full review
Thumbs up, by Uday Bhatia, Live Mint : ...The film is careful to keep its central character in focus and its star and producer under wraps, but it’s impossible not to think of Padukone in the moment when Malti is asked “ladna hai?" – up for a fight?... full review
Thumbs up, by Mayank Shekhar, MiD DAY : ...The last time I read a report suggesting young folk carrying acid, was into the campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), planning attacks against students inside, in the same week that I've watched this film. Who cares which group or political party these supposed youth belonged to? Screw Indian citizens, they need to prove they're humans first. Chhapaak subtly puts a lot of such debates into perspective. We should be proud of it. As we are, of Padukone fronting and backing it, of course.... full review
Thumbs up, by Vinamra Mathur, MiD DAY : ...Chhapaak also gives us the most shocking finale at the movies in years. Gulzar and her team turn the adage expect the unexpected on our heads. You have a smile on your face, and then suddenly...... full review
Thumbs up, by Shalini Sur, Movie Talkies : ...Chhapaak is not an easy movie experience and will make the viewer go through an 'acid test', but still it's a story that was needed to be told and has to be seen, inspired by the real life story of Laxmi Agarwal; Laxmi’s true strong spirit, determination and her immense will to battle with life, post the hideous incident of acid attack which she suffered at a young age, is the beacon for all acid attack survivors today.... full review
Thumbs up, by Kunal Guha, Mumbai Mirror : ...Enduring abominable assaults, often inflicted by scornedlovers, bitter relatives or even unprovoked strangers, can sharply alter one’s very being. The wounds may be skin-deep but the hurt permeates into their very consciousness and rips their self-worth to shreds. And this is a story of a woman who has been through it all and yet, discards the distinction extended to her.... full review
Thumbs up, by Vaibhavi V Risbood, Pinkvilla : ...There were powerful moments in the life of Laxmi Agarwal that you expected to see in the film. Laxmi, in her interviews, has narrated how she desperately attempted to see her face in the cups of liquid food which was being served to her at the hospital; primarily because her room had no mirror. Similarly, she was aghast when the culprit showed no remorse in the courtroom and instead offered to marry her as a solution to his ‘mistake’. Setting these things aside, Chhapaak is a film worth the time and money.... full review
Thumbs up, by Sukanya Verma, Rediff : ...Chhapaak gets its casting (Gautam Kishanchandani) down pat. The editing (Nitin Baid) is seamless. The camerawork (Malay Prakash) breathes the mood through all its hues and highs. The ageing and passing of time isn't specifically striking but Deepika's physical transformation by make-up artist Clover Wootton is simply exceptional. 'Usne mera chehra badla hai, mann nahi,' believes Malti. Truly the only 'manns' that need to change are the ones that empowers such atrocity.... full review
Thumbs up, by Vinayak Chakravorty, Sify Movies : ...As a commentator, Meghna Gulzar drives home a solid message about a few societal ills the harsh way. As a storyteller, however, she has done better with Talvar and Raazi. Her new film is disturbing and yet relevant, while jolting you out of your senses. But somewhere down you get the feeling that the filmmaker is too overwhelmed with her subject matter.... full review
Thumbs up, by Namrata Joshi, The Hindu : ...There are refreshing, radical departures on other fronts too in Chhapaak. The obvious one is overturning the notion of vanity associated with stardom.... full review
Thumbs up, by Sreeparna Sengupta,, Times of India : ...‘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.... full review
So-So, Bollywood Hungama : ...Shankar Ehsaan Loy's music isn’t memorable. The title track is well inserted in an important scene. 'Nok Jhok' and 'Khul Ne Do' are average. Shankar Ehsaan Loy and Tubby's background score is slightly better.... full review
So-So, by Russel D'silva, Bollywood Life : ...Chhapaak serves as a necessary, if not great watch. You leave the theatre feeling that you've been dished out a decent film on a pertinent subject that had the potential to be better. I'm going with 3 out of 5 stars.... full review
So-So, by Madhuri V, Filmi Beat : ...The Chhapaak title track sung by Arijit Singh adds emotion to the narrative. Nok-Jhok is a sweet and sour glimpse into Malti (Deepika Padukone) and Amol's (Vikrant Massey) budding romance.... full review
So-So, by Anna MM Vertticad, FirstPost : ...The blend Massey achieves is what Chhapaak needed as a whole. Without that, what we are left with are good intentions, a heart in the right place, a major star taking a huge risk with an unorthodox role and a bunch of pluses that somehow do not come together to deliver an immersive experience.... full review
So-So, by Ankur Pathak, Huffington Post : ...Barring the hastily put Arijit Singh songs which interject more than they interpret, Chhapakk is a quietly powerful social commentary, a film that never allows you to be comfortable. Because the film knows that being comfortable is being complicit in violence.... full review
So-So, by R.M. Vijayakar, India West : ...Technically competent, the film has one remarkable song, “Chhapaak Se Pehchan Le Gaya” that is well-written (Gulzar) and composed (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy). From the performances, Babbu’s sister is superb, especially in the dogged defiance she shows in court, and we wish we knew the name of this actress, and Manohar Teli as Malti’s father is quite lovable in his helplessness. Massey is good, and so is the lawyer (Madhurjeet Sargi).... full review
So-So, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...Chhapaak has several parts that are delicately crafted. But the aggregation of the elements that constitute film does not somehow yield something greater than the sum of the parts. Nonetheless the parts that work do make Chhapaak essential viewing. Watch it not just for Deepika Padukone but also for what it has to say about a social scourge that refuses to go away.... full review
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