Synopsis – Helmed by R Balki, the romantic psychological thriller is a homage to legendary filmmaker Guru Dutt and his 1959 classic movie Kaagaz Ke Phool.
My Take – Given Hindi cinema’s history with often delivering lackluster psychological thrillers, one probably wouldn’t have had much hope from this one when it was initially announced. But given visionary filmmaker R. Balki‘s knack of picking up intriguing premises, and dressing them with technical flourishes and sharp observations on society, my previously set expectations quickly elevated when the first trailer dropped and showed a psychopath maiming film critics for giving inappropriate ratings to films.
And also specifically for how it used late cinema auteur Guru Dutt‘s last directorial Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) to serve the plot of the crime thriller, all with an aim of examining the true purpose of film criticism.
Working as a riveting slasher, the resulting film is as intense and thought-provoking as promised, making an impact without trying too hard. While the screenplay, co-written by Balki, Rishi Virmani and notorious critic Raja Sen, like most films nowadays, suffers from a slightly sluggish climax, where it becomes easy to predict how things are going to pan out.
Nevertheless, with it’s the unique story managing a gripping hold, and its excellent performances and the arresting visuals anchoring the film throughout for 135 minutes, the film definitely deserves a watch.
Set in Mumbai, the story follows Arvind Mathur (Sunny Deol), the Head of Crime Branch, who is called in to investigate the case of a noted film critic who was gruesomely murdered at his home, with a star etched bloodily on their forehead. However, the city goes into further shock, when two more film critics are brutally killed in a similar manner, confirming that a serial killer is on the loose. Forcing him to bring on renowned criminal psychologist Zenobia Shroff (Pooja Bhatt) on the case to help him nab the killer before he strikes again.
Meanwhile, an enthusiastic rookie entertainment reporter Nila Menon (Shreya Dhanwanthary) finds herself falling for her neighborhood’s mild-mannered and recluse florist Danny (Dulquer Salmaan), who may or may not have a connection to the so-called critic of the critics. Setting the stage for a cat-and-mouse game.
Without a doubt, the basic story-line is quite compelling as it features pretty much everything, right from a bit of gore to a liberal dose of twists that one would expect from a thriller. While the narrative moves in a lethargic pace, it has its own beauty and the tight screenplay ensures that the audience is glued to the screens right from the word go. Given the genre, violence is an integral part of the narrative. None of the scenes try to shock the audience. The focus instead is on using these scenes to explore the serial killer’s psyche.
The promising premise exceeds its potential because the skillfully-executed screenplay uniquely draws inspiration from Kaagaz Ke Phool, a box office dud, and uses it as a metaphor on several occasions. The film hinges on the inference that Guru Dutt was pushed to an untimely death by the fact that critics ridiculed his efforts, a deeply personal essay that enumerated the struggles of being a filmmaker in a highly commercialized industry.
Much is also made of the fact that the film in question is today universally regarded as a masterpiece. The film also highlights the love-hate relationship that makers share with film critics who with their writing and verdict can make it break a film and the hard work that goes behind making it. Taking in instances from the cutthroat world of media where several reviewers are quick to pass judgment and are not always honest in order to get views or maximum clicks.
But while the first half sets up some intriguing questions about the way the murders are carried out and the motivation of the serial killer, the second half at times sags, and it is there where the plot holes become woefully obvious. Forcing us to question a lot about the killer’s methodology and convenience. Leading us to a climax, which I personally found a little underwhelming. Nevertheless, the film is entertaining enough so long as you don’t start thinking about logic and plot. Once you do, it teeters between absurd and silly.
Performance wise, Dulquer Salmaan, as always, oozes easy-going charm and displays a wide range of emotions. Though Salmaan is already a bona fide superstar in the Malayalam industry, with each new role he is firmly establishing his hold in the Hindi film industry as well. It is, however, Sunny Deol who proves to be the scene stealer here. Restrained but quick-witted, the veteran actor delivers an excellent performance here.
Shreya Dhanwanthary charmingly fleshes out her character and makes her entirely root able. While Pooja Bhatt makes her presence felt despite the limited screen time. On the whole, ‘Chup’ is a unique, flawed yet gripping psychological thriller which deserves a watch especially for its refreshing concept.
Directed – R. Balki
Rated – R
Run Time – 135 minutes