Chup: Revenge of the Artist
Dir: R Balki
Cast: Dulquer Salmaan, Shreya Dhanwanthary
Let’s say, I change the headline of this film’s review to ‘Chu…’ And give it a one-and-half star. What follows are cops for my protection, because there’s a serial killer on the loose, bludgeoning to death film critics, who are unfair.
The police control room is buzzing with reviewers’ names, and their star-ratings to the latest release. They could be the next victim.
That’s actually a scene in this film. Only that the film critic concerned is ethical/unprejudiced. The one who gets killed, on the other hand, is a corrupt fellow, who had praised a bad movie to the skies, and so got killed off! The manner of killings are in fact determined by the review itself.
So, if a guy’s written that a picture has its heart in place, but all other organs displaced — that’s exactly how you see the dead-body of the said critic! Anyway, the most common take-down for movies is it’s loosely edited, therefore way too long — this, usually stated in reviews that go on and on! Point taken.
Frankly, the premise of this serial-killer picture is so frickin’ delightfully absurd that you simply fall for
the idea, first — because, how can you not? Going back to that ethical critic, the cop (a relatively subdued Sunny Deol) kinda asks him if he’s seen any movie that
mad-assassin could be inspired from.
Only vague memory I have is of an Oriental short film, from around 2006 — having mentioned it in the review of the anthology, Darna Mana Hai then — wherein a dead artist returns as a ghost, with long arms, to haunt the hell out of an art critic, who used to regularly trash his works!
As for the serial killer here, the critic in this movie admits, “Aisi film mere knowledge mein toh nahin hai (Haven’t seen anything like this before).” Which is true. This is deeply unique/original.
As are films, in general, of writer-director R Balki. That, I suspect, essentially emanate from a terse, one-line idea — Amitabh Bachchan as Abhishek’s son (Paa); or an actor’s war of ego, with his voice-over artiste (Shamitabh), which could have well been the playback singer as well.
Or, Big B falling in love with a woman considerably younger, which was Balki’s debut, Cheeni Kum (2007). It was when a reviewer had trashed that film, that Balki told me recently, he just wondered aloud to Bachchan, “Can we just bump this guy off?”
No, you can’t — but you can certainly make a movie on it, I guess! Balki’s primary muse, Bachchan, does appear on the screen here to make the necessarily balancing point about how “cinema needs fearless, unbiased voices for its growth.” Which is true for all aspects of public life, isn’t it? Popular film criticism is merely a part of journalism.
Left to itself, what could’ve followed that ‘kill the critic’ idea is a complete hit-job, like Nightcrawler (2014) on the nut-job paparazzi. Or more so, an inherently dark, slasher flick, maybe gruesomely Korean in its mayhem, descending towards cringe-fun, low-budget B-movie madness.
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Typical to his style, what Balki tightly weaves around his thought is actually a lightness of mainstream touch — songs Waqt ne kiya, Jaane kya tune kaha, in the background score; a beautiful romance in the foreground; few quirky characters here, some smart lines there; and a really clever sequence leading up to the climax.
The understatedly sorted actor Dulquer Salmaan, who has the perfect ‘paavam’ boy looks — with probably something to hide beneath—shows up as a flower-seller. Shreya Dhanwanthary plays an entertainment reporter. Which makes her, after the financial scribe in Scam 1992, the fresh face of Bombay journalism, if you may!
Will take her over jholas for journos we’ve been subjected to forever! Pooja Bhatt, returning to the big screen after two decades, with a role as charming as her, plays a psychoanalyst specialising in psycho killers.
In the far-off backdrop, Chup is also framed around the classic Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), which had tanked at the box-office upon release — like so many great films in their time. It was Guru Dutt’s last film as director, although he did ghost-direct films, before his death by suicide.
The tragedy of Kaagaz Ke Phool probably has more to do with fickle public response. I doubt there were too many reviewers then to either steer public opinion or a picture’s fate.
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Now, practically anyone with fingers and a cellphone is a film reviewer. Which is what makes Chup a really well-timed, contemporary film — if you expand its inherent point to the ‘troll culture’ that surrounds us. With folks on social media, in particular, callously directing sickly barbs at public figures in general, without a thought at how it affects those the darts land on.
I saw callous movie critics in this meta movie, as merely a metaphor. And yes, it did make me think of my job a little more — a reason this film feels so, so close to home. Mean this also literally — watching Bandra’s Patel Store, Goodluck Restaurant, Mehboob Studio… Lovely! And yes, like all reviews, this is merely a personal opinion. Let’s not get violent ‘n’ all, okay?
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Originally published at www.mid-day.com