Rarely does one come across a trailer that makes you desperate for the film to match the expectations it has set. Chhapaak, directed by Meghna Gulzar, is one such project. Based on the life and triumph of acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal, Chhapaak sees Deepika Padukone in the role of Malti, who embarks on a journey to seek justice for herself and for many other women who have endured what she did. Chhapaak trailer is packed not just with dialogues, but visuals that stay with you long after it ends with the frame showing us a hashtag that reads Ab Ladna Hai (now we have to fight). Also, this could possibly be a career-defining performance for Padukone.

SOME TAKEAWAYS:

  • The trailer of Deepika Padukone starrer Chhapaak is out.
  • Directed by Meghna Gulzar, the film is based on the life of acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal’s life.
  • The film raises many important questions regarding the easy availability of acid and society’s tendency to question a survivor’s character.
  • Hopefully, the film will live up to the expectations that it has set and treat the issue at its core with sensitivity.

Chhapaak trailer is packed not just with dialogues, but visuals that stay with you long after it ends with the frame showing us a hashtag that reads Ab Ladna Hai (now we have to fight)

To be honest, I was a bit skeptical about Gulzar’s treatment of such a sensitive subject, especially after she made a  statement last year, saying, “When you take a face as beautiful as hers (Padukone) and portray her as an acid attack survivor, the magnitude of the violence and damage is that much more resounding.” However, as far as the trailer goes, it does tackle the issue of acid attacks with the restrain and sensibility it requires.  Padukone transforms effortlessly into Malti, bringing a rare mix of vulnerability and vivaciousness that shows her character’s journey from dealing with the aftermath of the acid attack to reclaiming her life.

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In the trailer we see are introduced to Malti amidst the protests around the Nirbhaya rape and murder case. Malti is shown coming to terms with her “new face” and how it changes her life after she is attacked with acid. In one scene someone asks her why she is putting away all her jewellery, to which she responds, “Naak nahi hai, kaan nahi hai, jhumke kahan latkaungi?” Malti finally “comes out” and fights for justice, which drags on for years. This is where the trailer changes its tone, to give us a peek into the resilient spirit of its lead, who embraces life (and her jhumkas) again, transforming from a victim to an activist.

Dialogues that raise potent questions

Chhapaak’s trailer packs in a lot of powerful dialogues in a little over two minutes, which not only make us reflect on what we as a society can do better to prevent such attacks but also highlight the apathy and victim-blaming that acid attack survivors have to endure.

In one scene a police personnel is seen commenting on how Malti’s phone is full of phone numbers of boys. Does Gulzar aim to hint at society’s tendency to find fault in a survivor, to zero in on the reason why she may have been attacked? One of the characters spells out how most of the acid attacks are carried out on girls who either want to study or move ahead in life, outlining the male toxicity that is deeply insecure of woman’s agency on their own lives. Any woman rejecting male dominance, be it in love or in her quest for justice, must be taught a lesson, isn’t this the mind-set that puts perpetrators on the path to commit heinous crimes like rape and acid attacks? Just four days ago, a girl in Muzzafarnagar was attacked with acid by her alleged rapists, because she refused to withdraw the case of gang rape. Such incidences show why more films sensibly dealing with various aspects of acid attacks are the need of the hour.

The film also questions easy access to acid, which if monitored properly could not only protect many girls from suffering a painful fate but also help to keep a close eye on the destructive anti-social elements who have no qualms in throwing acid at women, to “teach them a lesson”.

A scene that speaks louder than words

In a very memorable scene, a little boy screams in horror after looking at Malti, who flinches at his reaction. This particular scene has stayed with me, as it poses so many questions. How deep-seated is our perception of beauty? When we flinch or gasp in horror at pictures of acid attack survivors, aren’t we letting the perpetrators win? Isn’t our horror, revulsion, sympathy, and pity the reason many acid attack survivors have to cover their faces?

The reality that looks back at us when an acid attack survivor lifts her veil, reflects our impotence to protect women from such crimes, and often it is too unsettling for us. The same can be said for Chhapaak’s trailer. It brings us a story many of us may not want to see. But we must, because this isn’t just about the acid attacks that we have failed to curb, but also a tale of survivors reclaiming their space in the society. Perhaps their resilience can inspire us. All is not lost, we can still prevent numerous girls from the ordeal that Laxmi in real life or Malti in reel life goes through.

One sincerely hopes that Chhapaak manages to do justice to the true story on which it is based. And that the film thoroughly maintains to uphold the dignity of acid attack survivors, all the while urging us to take a cue, because it is indeed time to fight back.

Image Credit: Youtube Screenshot

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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