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Chhapaak Movie Review: An empowering tale of resilience and hope with winning performances by Padukone and Massey

Chhapaak Movie Review: An empowering tale of resilience and hope with winning performances by Padukone and Massey

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Chhapaak Movie Review: An empowering tale of resilience and hope with winning performances by Padukone and Massey

Vijayalakshmi Narayanan

Director : Meghna Gulzar

Genre : Drama

Our rating :

On the surface level, director Meghna Gulzar's 'Chhapaak' can come off as a mere ary that chronicles the events of what happens when an acid attack irreversibly affects the life of a young woman who resists unwarranted advances of an entitled, bigoted man. But when you dig deeper, you'll know that the film just wants to let you in the lives of women and their resolve of overcoming their life-altering trauma, without deploying the usual tropes that a commercial cinema lover would expect in films based on personal tragedy.

Malti Agarwal's (Deepika Padukone) beautiful face is irreparably scarred when a masked assailant hurls acid at her in a crowded marketplace. A kind citizen takes her to the hospital, the nurses wash her face which only aggravates the situation to worse. The effort to restore normalcy in her life is going to be an expensive affair with parents facing a financial crisis and a brother ailing from an illness. Malti is aided in her recovery with help from a doctor-friend Shiraz (Payal Nair). Meanwhile, the Delhi Police crackdown on the culprit and take Bashir (Vishal Dahiya), a family friend into custody, who confesses to the crime. However, Bashir keeps receiving bail on human grounds, time and again. This prompts Malti to file a PIL with the help of lawyer Archana Bajaj (Madhurjeet Sarghi), seeking an amendment in the law that quantifies the punishment granted to the culprits of acid attack. The road to justice is long but Malti is determined.

Penned by Atika Chohan and Meghna Gulzar, 'Chhapaak' does not ask for your sympathy. Instead, it is a stinging attack on the acid in our minds. Through brilliant scenes, we are shown how we are equally guilty of labelling victims and are complicit to the trauma they endure. You must watch out for the scene where Malti is cornered by the media outside the court with questions that lack sensitivity and sensibility. You will teeth in rage. Despite the inconsistency in between, what I personally appreciate about the film is how beautifully it places women at all the important positions in the society. It's also been a while that a mainstream film has captured sisterhood and compassion. Cinematographer Malay Prakash's excellent camerawork and editor Nitin Baid add the right amount of tension during the courtroom scenes and the necessary warmth during tender moments. Deepika's almost striking resemblance to Laxmi Agarwal, on whose life this film is based upon, can be credited to the make-up design by Shrikant Desai and Clover Wootton. The background music and the songs by Shankar Ehsaan Loy are hauntingly reflective.

Speaking of the performances, Malti is almost a reflection of Deepika and the actress plays the part with utmost sincerity and affection. Despite her condition, Malti refuses to be held behind and Deepika's sprightly, spirited act leaves you beaming from ear-to-ear. Equally playing her off is Vikrant Massey as the journalist-turned-activist Amol, who heads Chhaya Foundation that tends to acid attack survivors. It's to Massey's credit that he does not reduce Amol to the stereotypical Mr. Good Man who will save the world. Amol is kind but blessed with an acidic tongue. What's heartening to witness is that the film stars four real-life acid attack survivors in significant roles featuring Kunti Soni, Ritu Saini, Jitu Sharma and Bala Prajapati. Madhurjeet as Archana and Payal as Shiraz make a mark with their parts.

'Chhapaak' is Meghna Gulzar's subtle yet impactful tale of resilience and hope. Much to ponder.

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