The Indian film industry is renowned for a myriad of things. One such thing is its brilliant way of retelling stories. The past few years have seen many Indian films put the real struggles of women in the well-deserved spotlight. While Chhapaak is no different, it does set a whole new standard for upcoming biopic films.With Deepika Padukone in the lead role, the film is based on the life of acid-attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal, and hit the movie theaters on January 10, 2020. The movie Chhapaak is a fictionalized account of Agarwal and stars Deepika Padukone in the role of Malti. The movie doesn't make the protagonist a hero right away but it shows you the hardships she has to go through and makes you feel how heroic she is to be able to do that. Be it her vulnerability or her smiles , she does with a great deal of sensitivity and nuance that saves Chhapaak from being a melodrama.
The visual effects used to represent Malti's burns are rather an extraordinary mix of make-up and prosthetics, which subtly change as she undergoes surgeries. The most moving scenes are actually the ones which feature Malti and the acid-assault survivors fantasizing about their future treatments. Their faces light up, not in pain, but in determination to win over the case that's been filed to regulate the sale of acid.
The director of Raazi was successful in plotting ironical characters in her film. She knows what to exclude as she concentrated on how a man should treat a woman. Be it taking care of the chores on his wife's behalf or striving hard as a lawyer to bring justice to Malti.. Meghna has succeeded in emphasizing the dignity of survivors and the joy that exists even after a devastating injury.
12 years before, she walked down the red carpet, with such grace, an epitome of elegance. She is now re-defining beauty. Perhaps, the beauty of courage and determination. Deepika Padukone has delivered a landmark performance that tells a lot about her character. 15 minutes into the film, she personifies Malti in a true sense- Not as a victim, but as a WARRIOR! Even through the smallest of gestures, a stare, a smile or a drop of tear, she manages to convey volumes of heartwarming emotions.
Vikrant Massey, as Amol, was shown as an young angry man, who is constantly being told by Malti that victims/survivors can be happy and there's nothing wrong in it. The scenes between Padukone and Vikrant were breezy and the chemistry, natural.
The music of Shankar-Ehsan-Loy is a character in and of itself. The title track along with the visualization is heartbreaking which makes the film all the more heart-wrenching to watch. The lyrics of Gulzar added poignancy to the mood of the film. The music draws the story into heightened, emotionally-manageable-melodrama, an approach that remains consistent throughout.
What didn't work?
The duration - Even at 2.05 hours the movie seems stretched a bit, especially during the second half. Some angles, including the addition of a budding romance, had nothing to do with the story.
Why should you watch 'Chhapaak'?
Chhapaak is already winning hearts and influencing various organisations and NGO's to help acid-attack survivors. The government of Uttarakhand has announced its plans to start a pension scheme for acid-attack survivors.
Although Padukone's embodiment of Agarwal's life-altering incident is praise-worthy, the casting of real chemical assault survivors shines a light on their grit and dignity, encouraging empathy for them. It's a story to be told and one to be addressed for sure.
Chhapaak 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.