MW Rating: 2 stars

On January 10 this year, people will flock to the theatres to watch Chhapaak, expecting a moving, emotional and impactful movie. What they’ll be served instead is a massive disappointment. If the film were to be judged by its final 20 minutes, it would have, perhaps, received a decent enough rating. However, the film in its entirety is dry and underwhelming, to say the least.

The story starts with the Nirbhaya rape case and the nationwide protests that followed. We are — through a journalist’s research — introduced to Malti who is played by an insipid Deepika Padukone. The story of Laxmi Agarwal is moving and full of hope and courage. Neither Gulzar nor Padukone do any justice to Agarwal’s story.

The writing by Atika Chohan and Meghna Gulzar herself leaves absolutely no impact. There’s no memorable dialogue here nor is there ever a moment when a line makes you introspect. There’s a dialogue that Vikrant Massey delivers towards the end of the movie about acid first forming in the mind before it reaches the hand, but it feels like an afterthought. What Chhapaak does do is help us understand the gravity of not having had a separate section in the Indian Penal Code for acid attackers. We’ll give it that.

The timeline itself is as fractured as an athlete’s knee cap and is so convoluted that one takes more than a moment to recall how the film begins.

The songs are randomly placed and do not add to the overall atmosphere nor do they touch any chord in you. Nok Jhok by Siddharth Mahadevan is supposed to be a light track but, like the film, it has no zing.

Of course, we cannot expect Chhapaak to be as fast-paced as Gulzar’s patriotic thriller Raazi, but while Raazi delved into the psyche of a spy, Chhapaak fails to analyse or bring forth the frustration, anguish and pain that is embedded in the mind of an acid attack survivor.

When, following a Supreme Court judgement, Padukone’s Malti jumps in the air, we do not jump with her. When she pulls down the covering from a mirror to discover her horribly disfigured face, she screams but we do not scream with her.

The cinematography by Malay Prakash is sub-par at best with the only bit deserving any commendable mention being the scene where Padukone’s character is attacked by acid.

The film ends with a slide showing us how, despite stronger regulation, the number of acid attacks has increased. That one slide should have made us angry and worried. Instead, it just brings a sense of relief because it signals that the film has come to an end.