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Chhapaak, based on the true story of acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal who won the International Women of Courage Award in 2014, promises to deliver a power packed performance by Deepika Padukone.
If you haven’t seen the trailer for Chhapaak yet, then what are you waiting for?
Didn’t that trailer give you goosebumps? Malti’s (Deepika Padukone) scream, as buckets of water are poured on her, shocks one into attention. Her anger as she packs away her jewellery is palpable. However, the trailer doesn’t leave one feeling defeated. As it moves we see Malti recovering –we see her happy and determined.
The last line in the trailer, “unhone meri surat badli hai, mera mann nahi” (they have changed my face, not my spirit) echoes the beginning of this wonderful TED talk by Laxmi Agarwal, the survivor on whose life the movie is based. (Please do watch the TED Talk!)
She narrates how when she was a 15 year old, a 32 year old man whose romantic advances she rejected, planned the acid attack on her, just because she chose to follow her dreams instead of agreeing to marry him. She talks about how, after the acid attack, her neighbours, instead of condemning the man, wished that he had harmed her in some other way, instead of disfiguring her face, because “who will marry her now?” She speaks of the difficulties she faces, on a daily basis, as she tries to fit into a society that constantly rejects her. And finally she notes that while the judiciary certainly needs to be faster in delivering justice and rehabilitation to the survivors, she doesn’t want attackers to receive capital punishment, because she wants them to know that their plan of separating the women from their dreams has not worked. Watching the women they hurt succeed and grow, will be a far greater punishment, she believes.
It is a sentiment she expressed at an event this year in April as well, when she said, “I am also elated that a celebrity like Deepika is playing me. I just want to say that this film will be a tight slap on that attacker who thought he has ruined my life and to the society who looked at me like a criminal.” She also added, “I saw a lot of makeup artists on social media recreating Deepika’s look from the film. Unhone vaisa makeup karke apni photos mujhe bheji hui hain. Kabhi socha nahi tha ki ek acid-attack survivor ke face ko bhi log recreate karenge.” (She sent me the photos of her in that make-up. I’d never imagined that one day, people would recreate the face of an acid attack survivor.)
Unfortunately, life after the attack has been hard for her. She is the sole breadwinner and has to take care of both her widowed mother, and her young daughter. While she has received many job offers from private companies, what she really wants is a government job that will secure her future. Unfortunately, she like many acid attack survivors, hasn’t been able to complete her formal education, and hence does not qualify for one, according to current provisions.
However, Laxmi has not let any of this faze her, and she continues to work to raise awareness and bring about reform in how acid attack survivors are treated by the police, by employers and by society at large. As she says in the TED talk above, the real acid is in the minds of people. She hopes that the movie (for which she has thankfully received a decent signing amount!) brings awareness to the issue and “will help people who are victims of such incidents to come out of it. They will get inspired that if she can do it than why not us.”
Speaking about the movie at the trailer launch, Deepika also hoped that the movie would help people see the realities in the lives of survivors, “I think the impact that the film supposed to have on all of us, the reason why we did this movie, I hope you see in it what we saw. We have made it with a lot of love, passion, enthusiasm and with a lot of responsibility.”
We too hope that this movie, which we anticipate will be one of the most significant movies in the next decade at least, will make a difference where it really matters and brings necessary attention to the problems faced by acid attack survivors like Laxmi Agarwal.
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Vijayalakshmi Harish is a book blogger and writer. To paraphrase her librarian, she is a
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