Film critics, beware! There’s a feared killer on the loose and he wants to get you. So be honest about the artistic value of the film you’re reviewing or it will cut you off. Since Balki’s films have always received critical acclaim, it’s a mystery why he invented this revenge fantasy. And since former film critic Raja Sen is part of the writing team, the mystery is even more puzzling. The film is also Balki’s tribute to Guru Dutt and hundreds of other creative souls who found real life too disturbing. The film shows that cinema provides a means to escape from their everyday life and that therefore it becomes the director’s job to make a well-made film. And it is the duty of the critics to judge a film by its content and the emotions it evokes, and not to put their own biases in the reviews. It points out that Guru Dutt gave up directing films after his Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) was generally panned by the critics. That’s a loaded statement, because there’s a mindset that says it’s the masses that make a movie a commercial hit or flop. A poorly made movie can be a hit if they go for it, and a movie that ticks all the boxes can fall flat at the box office if viewers don’t develop a nose for it. Kaagaz Ke Phool is considered a classic today and is taught in film schools. So maybe posterity is a better judge than criticism or box office numbers.
There are fundamental flaws in the screenplay. It is not clear how the killer, who only owns a bicycle, is able to kidnap and transport people from their homes and kill them in various locations. And he is able to do that under the heightened police presence. Also, he can dodge all security cameras everywhere. It just isn’t right.
But ignore these glitches and the laughable premise and you’ll see a beautiful love story develop between Dulquer Salmaan, who plays a reluctant florist, and Shreya Dhanwanthary, who wants to be a true critic. It is a poetic romance, overlaid with music from Guru Dutt’s films, with cinematographer Vishal Sinha recreating the lighting and atmosphere of Dutt’s cinematographer, the legendary VK Murthy. Romance has never looked serene in recent times and kudos to the director and cameraman for getting it right.
You also see Sunny Deol playing a hardcore police detective. Sunny is making a solid comeback with this film. His image of an action star has always overshadowed his abilities as an actor. Balki brings out the actor in him and lets him grow in his character. He’s not a frustrated, anxious cop who wants to change the system, but a dedicated officer who methodically connects the dots and tries to find a logical explanation for everything. Sunny has a great screen presence that is used effectively and his to the point performance is one of the highlights of the film. It’s good to see Pooja Bhatt back in action. She plays a psychiatrist who helps the police profile the killer. It is a short and impactful role in which she shines. The South actress Saranya Ponvannan makes her Hindi debut with this. She plays Shreya Dhanwanthary’s blind mother and the mother-daughter scenes are as real as they come. Her spirited responses are indeed a delight.
Shreya Dhanwanthary has always been a natural for the camera. Here she again plays a credible role as a somewhat naive entertainment journalist who goes through emotional growth over the course of the film. Dulquer Salmaan was so good in the recently released Telugu movie Sita Ramam. The Hindi audience knows him from Karwaan (2018) and The Zoya Factor (2019). Here he plays a complex character who identifies with Guru Dutt. The final scene in which he assumes a Dutt-esque pose from Pyaasa (1957) certainly takes you back in time. It is not an easy role to play and the actor gives it his all and wins you over with his sincerity and dedication.
Chup: Revenge of the Artist can only be described as an experiment. Watch the film for the fine performances of the entire cast of the ensemble and for its tribute to Guru Dutt and his kind of cinema.
Trailer: Chup Revenge of the Artist
Ronak Kotecha, September 21, 2022, 10:57 AM IST
Story: A psychopath kills film critics one after the other in the most gruesome way. Can the police catch him before the next movie review comes out?
Review: It’s a nightmare for us film critics that we never saw coming until co-writer and director R Balki came up with the new idea of our tribe being brutally cut to pieces for reviewing a movie. A psycho killer is on the loose and targets the best movie critics and he could be just about anyone. A disgruntled filmmaker, a miffeed actor or just an avid film buff. The agents led by Inspector Arvind Mathur (Sunny Deol) are equally ignorant because this serial killer makes no mistakes and kills his victim with creative finesse.
While the love story misses the mark, Balki’s own love of cinema does not. He performs many a frame with beautiful shots (by cinematographer Vishal Sinha) and a hauntingly brilliant background music recreated from chartbusters of yore such as ‘jaane kya tune kahi’ and Yeh Duniya agar mil bhi jaaye from Guru Dutt’s classic ‘Pyaasa’. This creates the mystical atmosphere that adds even more chills to the killer’s carefully executed murders.
Dulquer Salmaan tries his best to play a loner and a lover. You can see the struggle of the actor in juggling his complex character and he does it satisfactorily. Shreya Dhanwanthary (Scam 1992 fame) is endearing as the woman in love, but her role as a journalist doesn’t give her much leeway. Sunny Deol is making a spectacular comeback. With the necessary restraint, he plays the smart and dedicated investigative officer well. And it feels good to see him team up with Pooja Bhatt, who makes a mark even in her short but important role. She plays a fierce psychologist Zenobia – a strong and opinionated character who feels like her own. Amitabh Bachchan’s usual cameo in this Balki film doesn’t look out of place either. The character of Nila’s progressive mother, Tamil actress Saranya Ponvannan, is a hoot.