Kudos to the originality of Chup’s story Revenge of the Artist: there’s a serial killer on the loose in Mumbai, whose target is film critics. Oooh, shiver me drink. That’s the kind of thought that I’m sure must have occurred to so many filmmakers not just in the bay, but in film hubs around the world, basically anywhere that film makers feel aggrieved by criticism callous, miserly with their stars, and generous with their critics.
One after another, the Mumbai police led by Inspector Arvind Mathur (Sunny Deol) finds brutally murdered bodies and sets out to find the perpetrator who seems to have an appetite for blood. Meanwhile, a romance unfolds between florist Danny (Dulquer Salmaan) and rookie journalist Nila (Shreya Dhanwantry), who has had enough of her entertainment pace – yeh stars kya khaate hain, kya pehente hain – and is dying to become a film critic.
Chup movie trailer:
Well, not to die exactly, forgive me, because that’s what the petrified group of Mumbai critics don’t want. Of course not. Who wants to risk their life for an opinion? As the body count rises, a psychologist (Pooja Bhatt) is summoned, who states that most serial killers are male, and quickly discovers a pattern, and the hunt is on.
The problem with Chup (yikes, am I saying that) is that even though I smiled at the weirdness of the plot, it failed to make me suspend my disbelief: the characters seem to come out of a fantasy, set in the back streets of Bollywood-soaked Bandra, and if that was the intention, this one needed more heft. The best fantasies need to be grounded, and that conceit never feels heavy enough.
At one point, the back and forth between murders and passed out lovers is too jerky. You want the film to breathe, which it does when the duo trip the fantastical light: the thing between Danny and Nila (clever name for a movie-mad girl, meaning moon in Tamil), is alluring. Writing credits are shared between R Balki, Rishi Virmani and film critic Raja Sen, and you immediately want to know of the latter: much Freudian?
Wish there were more of these tracks, as ‘Chup’ feels like a love letter to cinema and Mumbai: the reverential references to Guru Dutt and his films, especially ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’, which was panned by critics, and is now considered a classic, outweighs the killer’s hatred for this band. But then it comes back to toothless blood and gore, the plot wears off; smart viewers will spot the killer soon enough.
Good to see Sunny Deol back in the movies; Bhatt’s cameo is fun. Dulquer Salmaan is pretty cowardly and Dhanwantry is lovable: She once played a reporter in “Scam 92,” but here she makes her Nila different, armed with a light-on-the-feet mum (Ponnavanan). But the mixture of menace and romance begins and remains uneasy, and ultimately makes the film, about dreammakers and those who destroy those dreams, less satisfying than it should have been. Am I supposed to take this seriously or laugh about it? In the end, it boils down to this: do you really believe that movie critics have the power to kill movies? Especially in the digital age, where everyone is critical, not just professionals? It’s also true that good films always find their audience, but do bad films deserve to die unrecognized? Towards the end, a character says: a film works thanks to word-of-mouth, not to reviews, and that immediately undermines the premise of the film. If indeed critics these days are less influential than dumb trolls, why to make the effort to go after them in the first place?
There, I said it: will I still be alive tomorrow?
Cast of the film Chup: Sunny Deol, Dulquer Salmaan, Shreya Dhanwantry, Pooja Bhatt, Saranya Ponnavanan
Director of the film Chup: R Balki
Chup Movie Rating: 2 stars