Cast: Deepika Padukone, Vikrant Massey
Directors: Meghna Gulzar
Producer: Deepika Padukone, Meghna Gulzar
Once again, director Meghna Gulzar tells a story drawn from true events. So there will be a tendency to watch Chhapaak using Raazi as the yardstick. But that would be an apples-and-oranges comparison since the spirited story of an acid attack victim has nothing in common with a spy thriller.
What does tie Raazi and Chhapaak together is the strength Meghna gives to the women in her cinema.
And so, after Malti the victim of a vicious acid attack in New Delhi, overcomes the trauma of seeing her face disfigured and goes through the exhausting rigmarole of doctors, operations, policemen, lawyers, judges and court hearings, she has the spunk to want to live, to love, to laugh and to party.
There is a pause moment when it is Malti who has to live with a face that initially scares children while Babbu the perpetrator gets bail, gets married and has a life.
Until Malti and her lawyer Archana Bajaj ensure that the law catches up with Babbu and puts him away.
A pithy moment arises when another acid attack victim succumbs to her woundsand Malti remarks that she was fortunate to die and not have to go through court cases and surgeries.
It is a heartrending situation when Malti has to confront and come to terms with her new look and in the background there’s ‘Har ghadi badal rahi hai roop zindagi’.
Meghna gives voice to her women in many ways. The courtroom battles are between a female lawyer representing Malti and a male defense lawyer appearing for Babbu. Here it is evidence and the law that matter, the women never once looking weak or using their gender to advantage.
Among the media too, Meghna plants women reporters who shut up their male colleagues when they throw insensitive, gender-prejudiced questions at Malti.
There are important points the film covers. An acid attack which was once clubbed with other grievous injuries and hence gave a light sentence to the guilty, needed to be treated as a much bigger crime. Malti and her lawyer succeed in getting the IPC suitably amended. The two women also doggedly pursue a PIL urging a ban on the free sale of acid across the counter. Although regulations have come in, acid is still within easy reach and the number of attacks on women has been on the rise, as the statistics at the end chillingly reveal.
But Malti, with help from various quarters, is able to triumph over her tragedy. Find love too in Amol who heads the NGO where she works to help other victims. So there’s always hope around the corner.
The title track ‘Koi chehra mitake’, written poignantly by Gulzar, sung soulfully by Arijit Singh and composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, has the power to live on for a long time.
Deepika Padukone courageously plays Malti who doesn’t have a pretty face to flaunt but has the spirit to fight on and live on.
Verdict: The downside of such a film is of course its commercial prospects. This is no Raazi kind of box-office hit. In fact, Chhapaak will probably fetch healthy reviews but cater to a limited audience.