Chup: Revenge of the Artist l Review

By: Amit KumaR Agarwal

The toughest job to do in this world is to make a film and earn money from it. It is not just aspiring filmmakers but billion-dollar studios as well, as the recent spurt of flops in cinema worldwide has proven. There are more than 15,000 film festivals in the world every year with at least 20 to 25 films each, one can well imagine the number of films made. Interestingly, in the middle of the film, characters from film-fraternity lament that there are many films by one-film filmmakers, they didn't even knew, existed! How many of the audiences can tell the name of even one assistant director of Sholay, Baahubali The Beginning, Avatar or Avengers?
The premise of R. Balki's 'Chup' is really interesting, but then Balki is known for making each of his films different, right from Cheeni Kum to Padman. 
'Chup' tells the story of a psychopath killer who murders film critics in a gruesome manner one after the other. The police led by Arvind (Sunny Deol) slowly fits in the puzzle with the help of a psychologist, Zenobia (Pooja Bhatt) and a film reporter, Nila (Shreya Dhanwanthary). Nila is in love with a florist (Dulquer Salmaan), who runs a flower shop and he is the psychopath killer. This is not to give away the suspense, as there is no suspense in the film in the first place.

R. Baki has written a story that is unique. His love for cinema and Bachchan is evident from the first frame. He even mentions 110 years of Indian Cinema and 80 years of Amitabh Bachchan in the opening credits. Guru Dutt's cult 'Kaagaz Ke Phool' is used as reference and metaphor for the mental health and self-doubt a filmmaker or an artist goes through when the film or an artwork is criticized and fails. The fact that Guru Dutt never 'officially' directed a film after 'Kaagaz Ke Phool' and he died with in four years. Though as an audience, I wanted Balki to connect Kaagaz Ke Phool with the serial-killer.
The story is very interesting, but it lacks universal connect, because many in the audiences that are not from the film fraternity and arts, won't identify with the film. Even if they had identified, the romance in the first-half serves as a block in the pace of the film. Also, the revelation of the killer from the very onset would have worked  for the film, as audiences already know him! Having said that though slow the film is still an engaging fare.

Sunny Deol is first rate as an officer out to nab a serial killer, though writers could have written few of his scenes better, particularly, the climax. He superbly underplays his role. Shreya Dhanwanthary gives a credible performance as Nila. Many a scenes of Dulquer Salmaan are repetitive because of soliloquy, after a point it becomes irritating and boring, as such his act pales in comparison to Sunny's and Shreya's. More scenes could have built his backstory effectively - him finding films, a soothing balm from his abusive father and becoming a filmmaker. Pooja Bhatt is good as a psychologist. Amitabh Bachchan shines in a cameo. Ironically, the film seems to be inspired by Bachchan's real life phase of late 80's and early 90's when critics ripped apart his films and a section of trade called them flops, whereas in reality they were biggest hits of the years - Shahenshah (1988), Ganga Jamuna Saraswati (1988) and Khuda Gawah (1992). It is almost a film-lore now, how he hung his boots and emerged even stronger in his second-innings. If it was not for the financial crunch he suffered in the late 90's, we wouldn't have seen many of the Bachchan gems, including directors own, Cheeni Kum, Paa and Shamitabh and of course the scintillating debut he made at 80, background music-composer for Chup. Is Balki planning 'Third Umpire' with Bachchan?
Chup will be loved by a section of the audience and will have a cult following like Balki's earlier Shamitabh. It won't make much of an impact on box-office though.