What happens when a filmmaker gets enraged by the uncharitable reviews which he believes are dishonest? What if that filmmaker had a mentally disturbing upbringing? And finally, what happens if that filmmaker becomes a psychopath and starts targeting film critics whom he believes are not honest in their reviews? And what if the targeting means actually killing the critics in a gruesome fashion week after week? And what if this bizarre proposition is actually the story of a film?
You get Chup: The Revenge of the Artist, a film directed by Adman turned filmmaker R. Balki. Did Balki just put his own feelings as a filmmaker seeing how the critics panned his last few films on paper and turned it into a story for this film? We wouldn’t know that but what we get is a film that is novel and unique in its premise.
If you look back at Balki’s films so far – Cheeni Kum, Paa, Shamitabh, and Ki and Ka, telling a not so common and even outlandish story has been a common feature. Regrettably, another common feature in Balki’s films is the messing up of the screenplay at the end of what promised to be interesting subjects. This happened in almost all his earlier films in different degrees. Chup is not an exception.
In what starts as an interesting Whodunnit, Balki weaves in a cute little romantic angle between the two leads played by Dulquer Salman and Shreya Dhanwanthary, only to squander all that up in the last twenty minutes. In my last review of Kantara, I mentioned that Kantara was saved in the last 20 minutes. In the case of Chup, it’s the opposite – the film loses its way in the last 20 minutes. Chup gets into an epic “meta” ride where Balki brings his own adoration of Guru Dutt as a filmmaker and how his last film Kaagaz Ke Phool was panned by the critics when it was released but was revered as a masterpiece much later.
Balki’s films are usually slick and high on technique. Chup is not an exception. The cinematography by Vishal Sinha is “Class” and in particular the romance portions in Bandra are shot beautifully. The background score is passive most of the time and I particularly liked the use of just the whirring sound of the film projector for some of the flashback scenes. The film has an interesting cast. Sunny Deol as the investigating cop gives a stellar performance. So does Dulquer who plays the lover and killer portions equally charmingly. Shreya is the “Anna Ben” of Hindi cinema if you understand what I mean. Her girl-next-door “take to your mother” looks combined with her subtle acting make her ideal for such roles as in this film where she plays the part of a film beat reporter living with her single mother.
The film didn’t do well at the box office. I wonder if the critics panned it or if they were considerate. As I mentioned briefly, the screenplay goes on a meta trip in the second half and slackens the pace in the second half. The backstory that is used to rationalize the behavior of the protagonist lacks credibility and is an overstretch. But the core issue remains the central theme of the film which is part of the title of the film “Revenge of the Artist”! Will a filmmaker ever go this far to turn into a serial killer of film critics just because they write dishonest reviews?
Notwithstanding all these shortcomings, I found Chup to be fairly engaging for most parts and therefore an interesting film that is worth a watch once. It is now streaming on Zee 5.
Postscript: While on the Filmmaker-Film Critic dynamics, Tamil director Gautam Vasudev Menon famously said “Keela irangi Vechu seyyalam pola thonuthu” (Feel like royally bashing up) in an interview just after Tamil film Critic Blue Sattai Maaran panned GVM’s film Venthu Thaninthathu Kaadu. Balki might not have overstretched it after all!