Despite Flaws, ‘Chhapaak’ Tackles a Powerful Topic With Sincerity
The film is directed by Meghna Gulzar and stars Deepika Padukone in a lead role.
Chhapaak opens with protests against the barbaric Nirbhaya rape case in 2012. As tear gas and police lathis meet the spirited protestors , there’s an eerie similarity to what is happening in the country today. Among the protestors is a father carrying a passport- size photo of his daughter’s disfigured face, and that is trying to catch the attention of a TV journalist. Women and the crimes against them are still vying for attention from mainstream media!
When we meet Malti (Deepika Padukone), the lead character based on acid attack survivor and activist Laxmi Agarwal, she is slowly trying to rebuild her life .
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The scars on her face are still visible, as is her resolve to not succumb to them.
Chhapaak, which translates to splash, is a story about resilience and courage in the face of a most brutal attack. Acid splashed on the face of an unsuspecting woman can snatch away her not just her face but also her identity and spirit - this makes Chhapaak not only an important film but also one that is difficult to watch .
Directed by Meghna Gulzar, who has co-written it with Atika Chouhan, the narrative moves forward sans melodrama, and therefore the impact is greater. Even as the fateful day of the attack is revisited twice in the film, in the process acquainting us with other women who have faced similar atrocities and showing us the remorseless face of Malti’s attacker Bashir, there is never a tone of pity. Instead what we have is a “matter of factness” in the way the story is approached, allowing us to see the crime for what it is - a way to erase someone’s existence even as they battle for life.
The action frequently shifts to the courtroom where Malti’s fight for justice takes place. Her PIL for banning acid in the country, the innumerable hearings and the frustrating loopholes in the law - all these things make us admire the courageous woman as well as question the judicial system. Malti’s pillars of strength - lawyer Archana and NGO worker Amol (played by Madhurjeet Sarghi and Vikrant Massey respectively) - are excellent. In fact, a lot of Chhapaak actually belongs to them.
However, despite these effective performances it seems like the film has nothing to say post interval. Although Deepika “looks” her part as the acid attack survivor, the events seem more like a reconstruction rather than a comprehensively built story. The narrative too jumps from the courtroom to Malti’s growing fondness for Amol to the apathy of the administration to acid attack victims, somewhere robbing it of the impact that one of would the film to have on the viewers. Chhapaak isn’t without flaws, but it deals with a very powerful subject with sincerity, and that deserves our attention .
Our rating: 3 quints out of 5!
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