'Chup' review: The nuttiest R Balki film

Balki’s Chup unfolds in an alternate universe where film critics call the shots. I’m not kidding. This is a world where film critics wield tremendous, impossible power.

Published: 24th September 2022 11:37 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th September 2022 11:37 AM   |  A+A-


Dulquer Salmaan in the movie 'Chup'

Express News Service

Balki’s Chup unfolds in an alternate universe where film critics call the shots. I’m not kidding. This is a world where film critics wield tremendous, impossible power. They’re capable — or so the film will like us to believe — of great cultural influence, making or breaking movies with a withheld half-star here or an effusive headline there.

This is all, of course, an exaggeration. “Who would kill a film critic?” wonders Sunny Deol’s investigative cop at one point. The sad (yet wholly realistic) answer is that no one, absolutely no one would kill a film critic. We don’t matter and that’s just the way it is.

Sunny is fantastic in the new movie. I had a blast watching him keep his hair on and solve crimes diligently (It’s worth the `75  on National Cinema Day ticket price alone). Stroking his chin, scratching his beard, Sunny pieces together clues instead of, you know, beating them out of people.

He’s investigating a spate of murders that have rocked Mumbai: the city’s finest film critics are falling. The killer (whoever he or she might be) isn’t playing around. He’s murdering them in gruesome, painstaking detail. This is death by wordplay. Writing “the first half stays on track…”, for instance, lands one dead critic on the railway tracks.

In a parallel storyline, far from all the violence and gore, newbie entertainment journalist Nila (Shreya Dhanwanthary) is falling for reclusive florist Danny (Dulquer Salmaan). Their budding love story—get it? plays out in the streets and bylanes of Bandra.

The eminently Catholic neighbourhood is nicely captured Danny cycling down the famous zig-zagging Bandra steps is a neat idea—though the overall bluish colour grade makes everything look dull. Meanwhile, any proof of Nila’s gullibility lies in the ‘Woody Allen is innocent’ quote hanging on her wall.

Chup, with its tagline of ‘Revenge of the Artist’, is also meant as a tribute to Guru Dutt. ‘Yeh Duniya’, ‘Jaane Kya Tune Kahi’ and ‘Waqt Ne Kiya’ play on the soundtrack (the two original songs, ‘Gaya Gaya Gaya’ and ‘Mera Love,’ aren’t much, though it’s nice to see Swanand Kirkire share a lyrics credit with Kaifi Azmi and Sahir Ludhianvi). Guru Dutt’s seminal Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) is referenced as an example of critics sounding the death knell of a great artistic voice.

“You critics are killers”—Zenobia, a criminal psychologist played by Pooja Bhatt with bad teeth, says. Yet this is a shallow assessment of Guru Dutt’s legacy. Dutt, for all his heartbreak and acrimony over his rejected masterpiece, continued to act in films till the early 60s. And isn’t Kaagaz Ke Phool all the richer for its initial dismissal, since it also tells the story of a shunned and forgotten filmmaker?

Indeed, Balki (with co-writers Raja Sen and Rishi Virmani) seems to want to have it both ways: sympathizing with the obscure artist while extolling the virtues of fair and unbiased criticism. It doesn’t matter. I, for one, don’t watch serial killer movies for deep insights into life and art.

ALSO READ | You can't be scared in a creative profession: R Balki on latest film 'Chup'

I watch them for the thrill, the chase, the cheesy yet entertaining genre beats. All of Balki’s films are essentially comedies, and the same is true of Chup. Three critics stand around at a compatriot’s funeral. “There’s a screening at 6,” one says. “Isn’t it tomorrow?” asks another, clearly debarred from exclusive preview shows.

The made-up film names are equally hilarious: Ding Dong, Pani Pani Re, Kalinga: The War is Not Over. Sunny’s cool demeanour is broken by sudden flashes of anger (“I feel like killing somebody!” he shouts in frustration in one scene).

Dulquer effortlessly accommodates dark shades in his shaggy romantic lead. The ‘Is he, isn’t he?’ portions of the film clearly bring out his best. He’s helped, in no small part, by Shreya, who’s become Hindi cinema’s go-to girl for earnest journalist types. “One day, one day,” she sighs, labouring over an interview while the cooler cats in her office go out for reviews.

ALSO READ | Teaser : R Balki's thriller 'Chup' unveiled an ode to Guru Dutt

Just let it go, friend. Just let it go. 

Director: R Balki
Cast: Dulquer Salmaan, Sunny Deol, Shreya Dhanwanthary
Rating : 3/5


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