Chup: A Cautionary Message For Film Critics

R Balki is someone who is known for his audacious ideas. For example in Ki and Ka Arjun Kapoor played a homemaker while Kareena on the other hand was the working woman. The film challenged the gender stereotypes. In Padman Akshay kumar’s character puts on a sanitary pad and squats several times to get an understanding about whether the pad is fitting or not. With the exception of Paa and to an extent Cheeni Kum Balki’s films have never been successful at the box office but there is no denying the ‘inventiveness’ of his films.

With his latest Chup the director goes into a very dark alley. Films about serial killers have been made in the past too. Case in point being Mohit Suri’s EK Villain and the sequel EK Villain Returns. However Balki gives his unique touch here by focusing on dishonest movie critics. The film is also a love letter to the legendary filmmaker Guru Dutt’s films, particularly his last one Kaagaz Ke Phool, a film that was panned severely at the time of its release, only to be acknowledged as a classic after the death of Guru Dutt.

Chup begins off with a gruesome murder of a film critic that begins a chain of events. This serial killer is not after all film critics but only a select few. The commonality in the killings is that all have stars etched on their forehead in the shape of a triangle. Sunny Deol plays inspector Arvind Mathur. Aravind is trying to figure out the motive behind these murders. Parallel to this you have a young entertainment reporter Nila (Shreya Dhanwanthary). She starts falling in love for her neighborhood florist Danny (Dulqer Salman). Nila is someone who is immensely passionate about films and wants to be a critic herself one day. In the beginning this parallel track may seem unrelated but soon enough you realize the importance of this subplot.

First and foremost Chup isn’t really a suspense drama as the identity of the killer is revealed to the audiences just before the interval. The focus here is more on the psychology of the killer and why he is doing what he is doing. R Balki does a splendid job in exploring the psyche of the killer (maybe he took some of his own angst here).

The cat and mouse game between the Inspector and the killer keeps you completely invested. The director gives equal importance to both the men.

The romantic angle between Dulqer and Shreya has also been smartly juxtaposed into the main plot by the director. Nila’s profession also hugely helps in this. Dulqer and Shreya share a warm chemistry, and their romance is very poetic in nature. You wish that they had a happy ending.

As earlier said the film is also homage to Guru Dutt. The many references to Guru Dutt take the story forward and make the character of Dulqer’s Danny more interesting, even though you don’t agree with his methods. The dialogues make you chuckle at several places and also leaves you thinking, particularly if you are an aspiring film critic.

The cinematography by Vishal Sinha also deserves appreciation with special mention to the scenes featuring Dulqer and Shreya.

There is no denying that Balki makes a strong point on how a critic should judge a film for the content and the emotion it evokes and not put their own biases in the review. But killing them to put the message across is taking it a little too far. At the same time you wish the director had put some focus on the community of the filmmakers and their responsibilities as well. There are some logical glitches, for example we are not clearly shown how the killer is able to kidnap people out of their homes and kill them at different sites. Particularly given that he only owns a bicycle but these are trivial aspects that don’t majorly come in the way of the movie watching experience.

Chup has one of the most unlikely ensembles that you will ever see and each actor knocks it out of the park. Over the years Dulqer has established his niche in not just the Malayalam Industry but also in the other industries that he has worked. His role of Danny has to be the darkest character that the actor has ever played, and Dulqer delivers a stellar performance. He does a stupendous job in bringing alive Danny’s extreme fondness for Guru Dutt and why he identifies with the filmmaker so much. There is a scene in the end where he poses like Guru Dutt in Pyaasa and it is a sight that you are not likely to forget. It is hard to believe that this is the same man who played the romantic lieutenant in Sita Ramam.

Sunny Deol has played a cop in the past too but here the characterization is very different from the commercial films that he did earlier. Sunny is successful in bringing alive the honesty and the desperation of Aravind to catch the killer. The actors screen presence is solid as ever. Pooja Bhatt is also a delight to watch as the psychiatrist even though she doesn’t have a lot of screen time. The same applies to Tamil actress Sharanya playing Nila’s mother.

Final word: Watch Chup for the sheer audacity that R Balki brings to the table and also for some winsome performances.

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