The reaction of young audiences in a “theater near me” to the new approach to dealing with film criticism depicted so graphically in the film Chup: Revenge of the Artist was scary. Add to that the heavy rain shower outside and the atmosphere of a late night show, the setting for a once in a lifetime adventure was complete.
The premise of the movie script with the subtitle “The Artist’s Revenge” written by, among others, Raja Sen, a film critic, is half approval of a killer’s feelings. The killer who murders “ignorant and biased” film critics because he believes they are “responsible for the failure or success of the film”.
Of course, the entire Mumbai police, led by an inspector played by Sunny Deol, call this man a psychopath who, as he puts it ‘star dene walon ko star deta hai’ (meaning, kill those who award “stars”).
Interestingly, even though the film is supposed to be a thriller, there is no suspense as to the identity of the killer as far as audiences are concerned. Dulquer Rehmaan, in a memorable performance, plays a “half-poet, half-lover” and full-time flower seller. Killing movie critics in the weirdest way shown on screen is just his “part-time job” and the writers seem to apologize for that trait.
In normal daily life, he is a shy florist, trying to catch the eye of budding journalist Shreya Dhanwantari. All this while Guru Dutt is immortal Jane Kya Tune Kahi plays in the background and the visuals of the original film merge effortlessly with the young lovers.
As the story unfolds on two levels, both integral to Dulquer’s split personality, brings us back to the lyrical lyrics of Guru Dutt. Kagaz Ke Phool, which was heavily panned by film critics at the time of its release, it almost justifies the punishment meted out to critics. And I tell you that the public loved it.
There were a lot of movies that made huge losses when they were released because the audience wasn’t mature enough at that time. The masterful work of Raj Kapoor mera naam joker made with enormous passion by the greatest showman turned out to be a total disaster.
Hadn’t he done Policeman after that, featuring the sensational Dimple Kapadia making his debut against schoolboy Rishi Kapoor, the Kapoor family story would have been very different. Several other films failed because audiences were unwilling to accept the kind of theme propagated by them.
Even in a popular Hindi series, the hero’s death was so shocking to viewers who complained about it while writing letters when there was no internet. Eventually, the producers had to “bring him back to life” as if he had fallen into a coma.
As a film critic, I have sometimes been shocked by the insensitivity of the writer. For example, a critic of Hindustan time had seen Dharam Veer in four words, “Loved Dharam Hated Veer.” The film had Dharamendra and Jeetendra in the lead roles. It’s another matter that Dharamveera typical old-fashioned costume drama, became a box office hit.
The film also shows this debate between police and psychologist, played by Pooja Bhatt who returns after a long time. The consensus is that with everyone today having a point of view and using social media to spread it, the value of film critics as influencers is nearly over.
Which brings us to the question: what is the influence of film critics on the choice of the public? There is dialogue in the movie that a movie doesn’t shoot because of movie reviews but because of word of mouth.
There are also allegations that film critics are “bribed by producers to give good ratings”. It’s unfortunately a vicious circle of which the film critic is only a minor part of a well-oiled marketing campaign.
I know a lot of Gen-next check the “star rating” of hotels or resorts. or bus services and even electronic gadgets before they spend their money on it. I also heard some of them cringe that they were looking for the movie critic who gave such a high rating to a “dumb” movie.
But my problem with Chup is that it gives a new dimension to the whole “media versus reality” fight by advocating that critics do not have the right to live after writing. To justify the murders, they invoke the classics of the late Guru Dutt because the killer is a big fan of the actor-producer whose most classics like Piasa and Kagaz Ke Phool were considered “too heavy” at the time and he died sadly.
Not fair, I would say to R Balki who launched a directorial adventure five years after giving us Padman with Akashaye Kumar.