It starts with a great idea, and you can enjoy the development of the storyline, but somewhere in its structuring and performance, the great idea gets lost a bit.
This Chup managed to contain himself is proven by the fact that I was able to write this review without shaking my hands, without constantly looking behind me, wondering if there is a hooded figure ready to pounce with a knife. It’s just a movie, the making-of makes it clear, about a psychopath who kills movie critics, for the reviews they write. Luckily, it’s not shot like a documentary, which might have given you the jitters. Plus they give you stars like Dulquer Salmaan, Sunny Deol and Pooja Bhatt so definitely not real. One can imagine how it must have started as a one-line plot – an artist killing the critics – and then developed into a well-thought-out storyline, with the how, why and who all stitched together. But somewhere in the couture, in its structuring and performance, what started out as a great idea gets lost a bit.
It’s not exactly a suspense thriller, since parts of the thriller are already given in the full title: Chup: Revenge of the Artist. And before intermission, you’re told who did it, though the police, led by Sunny Deol, are still fumbling in the dark. It’s the story and direction of R Balki, but interestingly one of his co-writers is Raja Sen, a writer who is also a film critic. The other is writer Rishi Virmani. You can imagine the writer, director, and critic perspectives that come into play as they bring the three heads together. What comes to mind is a scene from the movie, where those working in the film industry and critics from various media come together to discuss the serial murders. Within minutes, they are at each other’s throats.
The start is great, you get dread in the air as a woman gets out of a rickshaw, finds the lift stuck and goes up eight floors to an apartment only to find no one answering the door . If you’re the type to brace yourself for a scene that should shock you, now’s the time to cover your ears lest loud sounds or sudden characters come out of nowhere. The scene ends with a scream (not yours) and the first body is found. It is a cruel and cruel murder. Almost naked, an overweight man is placed on his toilet seat, with cuts made symmetrically all over his body. Oh boy, you think, all because he gave the movies bad reviews?
But tearing you away from the heart of the matter, the film takes you to a flower shop and the man who owns it: Dulquer emerges with a beehive of curls on his head, looking fresh and cheerful, and taking two cups of tea in a pretty garden. The moment you come to terms with this suddenly forced side story, you’re given the heroine: Nila, a young entertainment journalist with a passion for film, played by Shreya Dhanwanthary. To be fair, his character is well written. And the encounters between the florist and Nila, who frequently has to buy flowers for her mother, are cheesy and relieve distractions.
See: Film trailer
Not that side stories don’t work in murder mysteries or psychological thrillers. They do, as long as you’re not awake every time the change occurs, as a constant reminder that this is a movie, this is fiction. Perhaps for the same reason, Dulquer’s and initially Shreya’s characters are shown to be prone to talking to themselves. In Dulquer’s case, it’s strange at first, but quickly becomes a very interesting character trait. A constant conversation going on, just like in many of our heads. Only in his case, the conversation is strong and structured, as if it were between two different people. Do you remember the two teas he takes? It’s not scary, just interesting. And a nice tool for character building. Only, his loud laughs stand out, not fitting the scheme of things, however you want to read it.
The other storyline, of murder and investigation, has a well-matured Sunny Deol running the show. Rajeev Ravindranathan makes an adorable sidekick. And Pooja Bhatt as Zenobia, the criminal psychologist, joins halfway. Their lines are often superfluous, out of place, and don’t create excitement like crime thrillers are supposed to. But the connections they make between the murders, the clues leading to the method of each murder, the selection of signs and symbols are all carefully written.
Saranya Ponvannan, as Nila’s mother, also plays a very interesting character, not at all your typical worried and gentle mother. The love between all the key characters comes through whiffs of fresh flowers and the music of black and white Hindi cinema. Again, the writer combo makes some nice connections. They also pay homage to Guru Dutt appropriately.
Expert hands are writing and directing the film. So when you find the hijackings aren’t smooth enough, you assume Balki and his team may have meant it, to snap you out of your daydreams about the film. To tell you, no one should kill another for a difference of opinion, it should just be a plot inside a movie. Not true.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/movie. TNM Editorial is independent of any commercial relationship the organization may have with producers or any other member of its cast or crew.