Chhappak is the sound of a splash but in Meghna Gulzar’s film, it has a visceral effect that is deep and profound. Deeply felt and simply told, in Gulzar’s trademark style, the film has the effect of a punch in the gut. But there are no pyrotechnics.
The acting, especially by Deepika Padukone, is subtle and is ably supported by a cast of characters who seem to have walked in from real life. The story is well known yet ghastly in its retelling. A young woman in Delhi is attacked with acid by a family friend who is angered by her increasing closeness to a boy from a neighbouring school.
She goes through hell, caught between court appearances and surgeries, even as her father passes on, her brother falls ill, and her mother struggles. But she survives, fights, not merely for herself but also for others. It is of a piece with the new focus on realism and on “progressive women’s movies” that the Hindi film industry seems to have discovered. But it is different in that it is neither over the top nor sensationalised.
It is, however, unapologetic about its subjects, showing them as they are–women just like you and I, with dreams, aspirations, and the urge to wear sparkly earrings, dance when happy, and have a party when they want to celebrate. It also shows the pattern. Acid is used as a weapon every time a woman wants to study or go ahead (padna chahti hai, ya badhna chahti hai).
But women like Malti, based on real-life survivor Laxmi Agarwal, refuse to give up or give in. It’s a movie that has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons, become the subject of a hashtag that urges followers of the BJP to boycott it. That would be a pity. Because the empathy displayed in the film is exactly what is missing in public life today. Forget the politics around it, watch the film for what it is–a cry wrenched deep from the heart.
(Inputs from Kaveree Bamzai)