One cannot deny the fact that Chup: Revenge of the Artist is flawed, but R. Balki's charm with his work is undeniable and crisp.
Last Updated: 08.52 AM, Sep 22, 2022
The story of Chup is about a psychopath killer who preys on movie critics. Mumbai is being rocked by a string of strange and disturbing murders. Every new film's release results in the weekly murder of cinema critics. In charge of the Mumbai Crime Branch, Arvind Mathur (Sunny Deol) has a case to solve. He tries to grasp the killer's thoughts in order to catch him with the aid of Zenobia (Pooja Bhatt), a criminal psychologist.
"Jane Kya Tune Kahi" is a romantic song from Pyaasa (1957) that is constantly played in Chup: Revenge of the Artist. The track shows an aloof Guru Dutt looking at a joyous Waheeda Rehman (sung by Geeta Dutt) while she sings her heart out. However, in the film, the song, even though it comes during a romantic sequence, is also an indication to the masses about how a filmmaker speaks about a film and how the audience/critics take it.
Chup starts off in the most thrilling way, and we just have to be prepared to see how one can be murdered in the goriest way. The first killing shows that the film is going to leave you on the edge of your seat, and there's no way you can turn around now.
R. Balki, the filmmaker, is known to bring twisted plots that are true to nature and execute them in the most entertaining way. We have seen him do that with Cheeni Kum, Paa, Ki & Ka, and more. Here, in Chup, he attempts something heinous that we have not seen before: a serial killer who is slashing film critics and marking their foreheads with stars.
The assignment is understood and the execution takes the plunge in the right way. We've become accustomed to the gruesome visuals that cinema has reserved in every way thanks to the era of OTT, with less regulation. But with Chup, we just can't deal with it right then and there while preparing how the next murder will be performed.
The psychopath's nature is shown through patterns, such as taking a paragraph out of a review and performing the murder in exactly the same way. "Bang on with that execution!"
I, still being an amateur critic, was dreading how to perceive this film, with fear or just as another piece of art and a filmmaker's labour of love.
Chup is a film that pays homage to cinephiles who live, breathe, and sleep cinema. Their lives revolve around giving references to movies every now and then, watching movies, and even getting their hearts broken when movies fail to impress. The film shows all kinds of critics, from the world of print to videos; some are genuine, while others are paid. So how does the killer decide on his next target? He is such a film buff that he has not only seen Indian films but has also been exposed to global culture.
The psyche of the serial killer is kind of convenient, but hey, mental illness cannot be put into a box and the motive cannot be always justified. A movie lover can take cues from any of the films he has watched over the years or cook up a mission that looks like a perfect script to be made into a movie or a series in the future.
There's no intended cat-and-mouse chase between Sunny Deol's character as investigating officer Arvind Mathur and the serial killer. But as the story unfolds, the pattern looks very interesting, so to speak.
On one hand, Deol's character is solving this man, who is making the world of movies a slaughterhouse with the killings of film critics. On the other hand, there's a love story brewing between Danny (Dulquer Salmaan), the owner of a flower shop, and an entertainment reporter, Nila Menon (Shreya Dhanwanthary).
Their love story in the first half gives another mysterious angle on how it's related to the serial killer. The first half thus runs parallelly well and leaves you intrigued. However, in the second half, the romantic angle doesn't help much with the story and makes you impatient to know about the hunt for the serial killer.
As mentioned earlier, Jane Kya Tune Kahi's context in this film. Another beautiful song, Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam from Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), is also a kind of metaphor for Chup. We saw Guru Dutt never direct a film after Kaagaz Ke Phool, knowing how the film was heavily criticised for its content. He died just a few years after the release of the film. But now, times have changed, and the criticism has become harsher with the rise of social media too.
These metaphors work beautifully with Chup, as Guru Dutt is remembered with utmost respect and regret that he didn't get his due for his contribution to Indian cinema when he was alive.
However, a little criticism of Chup would indeed be a matter of convenience. The film slightly loses logic and seems fictitious in terms of giving the benefit of the doubt to the plot. It thickens once Zenobia (Pooja Bhatt), a criminal psychologist, comes into the picture. Her way of showing the "pattern" of the serial killer is kind of a known fact but is shown as a shocking twist in the film.
When it comes to performances, Chup is an out-and-out Dulquer Salmaan show. The actor is terrific in every scene, and you can't take your eyes off him. Knowing his body of work in the past decade, the actor has shown every shade in the films he has starred in, irrespective of the language. But the way Balki oozes out the more hidden talent he has is incredible to watch.
Sunny Deol as a cop is brilliant and brings back the charm he had with his performances in Damini, Ghayal, Ghatak and more. The one scene where he jumps off from the top floor and limps while he walks shows that he has aged but will never be less than the action hero he has been.
Pooja Bhatt's presence in the second half is just fabulous and proves how she has always been a talented actor. She deserves to be on screen more often.
Shreya Dhanwanthary looks promising with the way her character starts. But it just doesn't gel well as the film shapes up. The actor feels like a love interest who does have a role to play in the climax, but it is less impactful.
Saranya Ponvannan as the visually impaired mother of Shreya's character is just picture-perfect. She is the kind of millennial mother one would root for and want in their lives.
The music, which is a blend of the old-world charm of tracks from Guru Dutt movies composed by SD Burman and a modern twist by Amit Trivedi and Sneha Khanwalkar, sets Chup apart from the rest of the serial killer movies. Even the background score by Aman Pant is top-notch, which sets the thrilling pace just right. Even the constant sounds of crickets fit in perfectly between the songs.
Chup is a brave attempt by Balki in every sense, which he penned with former critic Raja Sen and Rishi Virmani. Brave for taking on a subject that no one had considered, braver for carrying it out by demonstrating how a film can be gory and uncomfortable to watch, and bravest for pulling off such a casting coup that will be remembered for a long time.
Chup: Revenge of the Artist has one scene which shows a poster saying "Woody Allen is innocent," which is equally disturbing to be present at a woman's house. That's another metaphor for how the film is designed to be. Moreover, Dulquer Salmaan takes the cake that Balki bakes and decorates it with a sharp icing.