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Since the day the trailer for Chhapaak was released, the movie has been in the news. With its hard hitting reality, this is why it is a must-watch!
Two decades of the millennium are over. And as we step into the third one, there is a desire for it remain positive, for things to change, but not many of us want to face reality to facilitate this change.
This where a movie like Chhapaak steps in. It is a movie that brings you face to face with reality sans the melodrama and with required sensitivity. The movie has successfully managed to touch issues that the society has been wary of addressing. But manages to brush them under the rug, rather conveniently.
While the movie brings the protagonist’s struggles to the forefront, it also raises plenty of essential questions. Questions that are not comfortable but the high time we accepted them and sought the answers.
The movie opens with scenes of the angry protests condemning the Nirbhaya gang rape. A few scenes later you have a bus conductor saying “the Government will fall if the girl dies.” Then you have Amol replying “jo zinda hain unki kya galti hain?” (the ones who are alive, how are they at fault?)
The beginning could not have been more effective. It is a known truth we mourn and protest for a victim of sexual violence, or rape only if she were to die. If she manages to survive, the same society does not blink an eyelid in shunning and ostracising her. This dialogue at the start sets the premise for what is to follow.
We have Malti, who is fighting for justice to get her attackers punished and is also fighting for a bigger cause to ensure more women do not have to suffer her fate. She is fighting to have the sale of acid banned, a fight which we are told has been prolonged for seven years. But her biggest worry at the moment is not the prolonging court trial but finding a source of income.
To the world, it’s her appearance that matters, not her ability. But we have a heroine in the true sense of the word, for she does not shy away from the world or hide her face. Instead, she faces it with a calm smile. The portrayal of her journey from the victim to the confident survivor is where the strength of the movie lies. She is not shown as an overnight heroine. The portrayal captures her breaking down, her refusal to face the world and her gradual gathering of strength to face life with her head held high.
It also manages to effectively show the reality of the society around us sans the overflow of emotions or cinematic beautification. The perpetrator of the acid attack against Malti is a man with a fragile ego who could not take no for an answer. Or as Malti’s lawyer puts it across to the court “Attack unhi ladkiyon pe hua jo yaa toh padhna chahti thi yaa badhna chahti thi.” (only the girls who want to study or grow are the ones who are attacked)
The harsh reality of our society is that men are raised to believe they are the superior or stronger gender. And when reality hits them it becomes unacceptable. Men with such fragile egos feel women who prioritise their plans and ambitions in life over them and have the courage to ignore their overtures need to be taught a lesson.
Sadly, such men are never remorseful of their actions, as has been observed most recently with the men convicted for the death and rape of Nirbhaya. These are men who have been trying to justify their actions and escape the noose. As the movie shows, society wants the girl to forgive the perpetrator and move on.
The most common explanation given “what is done is done, punishing him is not going to make it right,” could things get more illogical than this? Maybe the wrong cannot be made right. However, ensuring that the perpetrator is punished, definitely stands as a warning for others with similar intent.
Meghna Gulzar, the director of the movie left no stone unturned in depicting the strength of sisterhood. Be it Malti’s lawyer or her father’s employer or even all her gritty colleagues at work. They leave no stone unturned in standing up for the betterment of their gender, their tribe.
The movie portrays toxic masculinity in its darkest form. At the same time, it also captures how a man can be the pillar of support and strength to women around him. This is done very well through the portrayal of Malti’s father and her boss Amol and even her lawyer’s husband who stands by his wife motivating her.
The love story between Amol and Malti is one of the calmest and beautiful depictions of a love story in mainstream Hindi cinema.
Coming to the performances, Deepika Padukone as the protagonist of the movie does complete justice to her character. She has portrayed Malti’s zest for life, her grit and strength to keep fighting for her cause with a restrained finesse.
Among the supporting cast, Madhurjeet Sarghi warrant’s a special mention for her portrayal of Malti’s lawyer Archana Bajaj. It is one of the few instances in Indian cinema where we do not have a lawyer who is hysterical or overdramatic. In fact, Madhurjeet’s portrayal of Archana Bajaj is really close that of a lawyer in India without the theatrics. She does a great job to deliver the requisite effect with her dialogues.
A special thank you to the director and her team for showing that lawyers spend time researching and analysing the case in hand. And for letting the audience know that arguing in court requires presentation of facts, not just heavy duty dialogues.
I initially only intended to write this just as a review of the movie. However, considering all the unwarranted flak and negativity it received, I could not end this without reflecting on that. The movie voices out against the injustice the women in the country face. It ends with a note stating how despite the apex court’s directive regulating the sale of acid, the scenario hasn’t changed as much.
The movie also calls out the irony of the skewed mentality and the hypocrisy prevalent in the country and can be see in the masses hating on the movie. When the lead actress of the movie decided to take a stand on an ongoing issue in the country, she was hated on. All she did was show her support to the students of JNU.
Like every citizen in the country, she has an opinion and the freedom to express it and she has done it with courage. Just because it does not align with the view of a certain section of the population does not make her “traitor.”
Neither does this become a ground to deride a capable and effective movie just to teach the lady a lesson. It does make me wonder one thing. If these people who, with their inflated egos, shout from rooftops that the fate of the film should be a lesson for people, that celebrities should learn what to support. I wonder if these people would have been just as brutal had it been an equally popular male celebrity involved.
This movie’s poor collection or deliberate negative ratings and deriding is not reflective of its quality or content but of the very hypocrisy and toxic mentality that movie calls out.
I want to end it here with the most beautiful line of the movie “Unhone meri surat badli hain, mera mann nahi.” (they have changed my face, not my determination) Never let the negativity and discouragement destroy your spirit.
Picture credits: Still from the movie
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A dreamer by passion and an Advocate by profession. Mother to an ever energetic and
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