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18. Chhapaak; movie review

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Title : 18. Chhapaak; movie review
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Cert 12A
120 mins
BBFC advice: Contains distressing scenes, frequent references to acid attacks

Here I was, blithely about to question why acid attacks seem to be unique to South Asia and then I discovered that the UK has one of the highest rates per capita in the world.
Yes, while Meghna Gulzar's Chhapaak is aimed at incidents in India and the attempts by its victims to fight back against an uncaring system, this is a worldwide problem.
Therefore, praise is due to Fox Star Studios, Gulzar and Deepika Padukone for highlighting such savagery.
If this had been a western film, Padukone would have been a challenger for an Academy Award.
She stars as Malti, a fictional character, who is based on teenager Lakshmi Agarwal, an acid attack survivor.
Malti is targeted by an older stalker (Vishal Dahiya) who resents her having a boyfriend (Ankit Bisht) of her own age.
She is distraught over her disfigurement but retains the composure to take on a legal fight against her attacker.
Madhurjeet Sarghi plays her tenacious lawyer who, despite intense pressure from Malti's mother and brother as well as the defence, keeps her client focused on the big picture.
The movie really takes off when Malti is persuaded to join a citizen group on behalf of acid attack victims.
This sparks a rollercoaster relationship with its head, played passionately by Vikrant Massey, and involvement with many more victims.
The first half of Chhapaak is a sobering account of how a life can be ruined or even ended in seconds and how governments appear either too incompetent or unwilling to intervene.
This is all the more remarkable because nobody seems to have any justifiable argument why acid should be so readily available to the public.
Sadly, the second half becomes a tad too embroiled in an unlikely romance.
This is very much Padukone's project - she produced and starred in it but has also stirred controversy by appearing in real-life demonstrations.
So, hats off to her - she has become an international star and is certainly in the right place to attract attention to a cause.
Her hugely impressive performance in Chhapaak in which she had to undergo make-up for hours on end, may be just a start but let's hope she can make a difference.

Reasons to watch: Important issue an impressive lead performance
Reasons to avoid: Unnecessary drift into romance

Laughs: None
Jumps: One
Vomit: None
Nudity: None
Overall rating: 8/10

Did you know? There were 240 victims of acid attacks in India in 2018 according to the National Crime Records Bureau report released in January 2020. Out of the 240 victims, 57% were women. In 2017, 244 acid attacks were recorded across the country.

The final word. Deepika Padukone: On hearing the script, I connected to the story and journey of Laxmi Agarwal immediately. I was just raring to take a go at it on both a personal and professional level.” Scroll.in

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