‘Chhapaak’ Critics’ Review: A Harrowing Watch but Not Preachy

The film is based on the life of acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal.

2 min read
Deepika Padukone as acid attack survivor Malti in <i>Chhapaak</i>.

Director Meghna Gulzar’s latest film Chhapaak released in theatres on 10 January. The drama is based on the life of activist and acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal, and stars Deepika Padukone and Vikrant Massey in the lead.

Here’s what critics have to say about the film:

“Malti’s horrendously hard recovery is only one part of the story. In addition to depicting her plight – the painful treatment, the depression, the social rejection – ‘Chhapaak’ also explores the easy availability of acid and the lack of rigour in prosecuting attackers. The non-linear narrative jumbles up the timeline, moving between Malti’s present and the circumstances that led to her condition. Alongside battling domestic fires and desperately seeking work, Malti does the rounds of courts, all along trying to get used to the face in the mirror.”
Nandini Ramnath, Scroll
“Despite the attempt to whip up minor controversies on social media, the perpetrator of the crime – Naeem Khan – doesn’t quite lose his religion or find himself converted to Hinduism in the film. Only his name changes to Babbu aka Bashir Khan. It’s to the credit of the writers – Meghna and Atika Chohan – that religion doesn’t become the defining point or the font of Babbu’s villainy. Nor does Babbu’s religion and community get demonised for his individual wrong doing. It’s a welcome change from the “violent Islamist” trap that recent Bollywood films keep falling into.” 
Namrata Joshi, The Hindu
“The fulcrum of ‘Chhapaak’ is Padukone. The superstar, who also debuts as a producer with this film, has the benefit here of sensitive camerawork by Malay Prakash and prosthetic makeup that somewhat mirrors the real-life Laxmi’s appearance. This is a talented actor who managed to make a mark even in the horribly Islamophobic, misogynistic and clichéd ‘Padmaavat’ in 2018. In ‘Chhapaak’, however, she is inconsistent. She does a good job of her present-day scenes, especially her hesitant flirtation with Amol. In the passage where she is shown as a teenaged school-goer though, she is decidedly awkward.”
Anna MM Vetticad, Firstpost

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