'Chup': Dulquer Salmaan is star of inconsistent, yet immersive thriller
R Balki's Chup: Revenge of the Artist was released in cinemas on Friday (September 23). The film, evidently a love letter to cinema and the art of filmmaking, is an ode to legendary filmmaker Guru Dutt. Fronted by Sunny Deol, Dulquer Salmaan, Shreya Dhanwanthary, and Pooja Bhatt, Chup remains a largely engaging, enjoyable watch, but suffers in parts due to its uneven tonal shifts.
Chup follows Danny (Salmaan), a man on a mission, rather, on a murderous streak to maul film critics who trash filmmakers' work or don't do justice to their pieces. He loves Nila (Dhanwanthary), an up-and-coming entertainment journalist and a budding film reviewer. Arvind Mathur (Deol) plays a dutiful cop tasked with catching the psychopathic killer. He is aided by a brilliant psychologist (Bhatt).
Non-whodunnit thrillers have a task cut out—to still keep the audience hooked about the hows and the whys—Chup excels here. Starting with a haunting birthday melody, it augments our intrigue as we await the characters to unroll the tricks up their sleeves. The rush of excitement, the honesty needed to critique someone's labor of love—it's a brief but interesting insight into film criticism.
I wasn't expecting R Balki to sprinkle some genuinely funny jokes throughout Chup. Not slapstick comedy, but situational humor that catches you by surprise. These jokes won't make you roar with laughter, but they lighten the movie's tension as if unraveling some tightly-knit knots.
Balki humanizes and simply doesn't relegate or elevate his characters, understandable through Danny's backstory. Dutt's iconic songs, from Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phool, melt into the screenplay seamlessly; they become one with the narrative and don't feel like they belong to the time that once was. Even though Chup takes time to get to the point, the phenomenal climax makes the wait worth it.
If you think you're strong enough to watch organs scattered across a field and a body mutilated with precisely thought-out knife scars, Chup may lead to a shift in that perception. I snatched a few moments in between to look away from the macabre gore.
Chup has a jaw-dropping interval point but post that, it, unfortunately, kicks away the very momentum that had initially set the wheels in motion. While the first half is embellished with curveballs, a bit of the second half is bereft of acceleration. At this point, it almost felt like the film was grasping at straws, trying to find itself amidst a hodgepodge maze.
Chup either runs at an expeditious speed or simply comes to a screeching halt. There's no in-between. At times, the narrative also runs the risk of becoming a bit convoluted, demanding that you pay unadulterated attention to each frame. And, just when I was glued and wanted the plot to propel, there was, of course, the bane of all thrillers: a romantic song.
Salmaan swiftly gets into the skin of the character in this tailor-made, author-backed role. From his vulnerabilities to the menace that defines him and his love-struck gaze to the remorselessness of a man wronged by fate, Salmaan is everything Balki wanted him to be. Moreover, in the initial scenes, I surprisingly found Deol a bit restrained, with Salmaan even overpowering Deol in some sequences.
A meta film through and through, Chup swarms with Hindi cinema references, especially from the era gone by. Numerous scenes, that pay homage to Dutt, feel like gorgeous moments frozen in time. From twists to a non-conventional story to a retro feel, Chup has enough aspects that make it an engaging watch. The irony isn't lost on me as I go with 3/5 stars.