Out of a myriad of things the Indian film industry is known for, one of them is its ability to move viewers with the strong retelling of stories. The past few years have seen many Indian films put the real struggles of women and the atrocities faced by them under the well-deserved spotlight, and while Chhapaak is no different, it does set a whole new standard for the biopic film genre. Starring award-winning Indian actor Deepika Padukone, Chhapaak is based on the life of acid-attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal, and hit the movie theatres last Friday, January 10. Whether or not you consider yourself to be a fan of Bollywood films, here are four reasons why Chhapaak is a film worth watching.
1. It is based on a real-life incident
Chhapaak takes place in New Delhi, depicting the life of Agarwal, who was 15 when she was attacked by a family friend after she rejected his romantic advances. With details like names and ages changed, the film follows a non-linear narrative to show Padukone playing the role of Malti, recalling the incident as well as recovering with the help of other acid-attack survivors. Since chemical assault rates in India are in the hundreds and continue to rise — not including those that were unreported — Chhapaak is a crucial story that needs to be told.
2. Direction by filmmaker Meghna Gulzar
From its very outset, Gulzar’s direction pulls in the viewer, establishing a connection that stays strong until the credits roll. The film’s opening scenes show protests in India that took place in 2012 after the heinous Delhi gang-rape case. The scenes fit well into the plot and flow seamlessly into Malti’s story which is portrayed powerfully without being preachy — a testimony to Gulzar’s strengths as a female filmmaker.
3. Deepika Padukone and the real acid-attack survivors
It means a great deal in Indian cinema when a female actor who is known for her beauty among many other things, redefines what it means to be beautiful. For this film, Padukone’s face was changed with the help of makeup as well as prosthetics to represent the acid-attack burns. Although Padukone’s embodiment of Agarwal’s life-altering incident is praise-worthy, the casting of real chemical assault survivors shines a light on their grit and dignity, encouraging empathy for them.
4. Laxmi Agarwal’s eye-opening role as an activist
Heart-rending at first, Agarwal’s life story gradually turned into one of hope and inspiration as she fought for justice by launching a PIL (Public Justice Litigation) case. Through this, she called for the ban of corrosive fluids such as hydrochloric and sulphuric acids as their easy access is one if not the most important enabler of a chemical assault. Agarwal has since established campaigns at the grassroots level to curb the rise of acid attacks, as well as led Chhanv Foundation, an NGO dedicated to helping the acid attack survivors in India.