Somewhere in the middle of R Balki's Chup: Revenge Of The Artist, Zenobia (Pooja Bhatt), a criminal psychologist tells the cop, "I am a Bollywood buff. We have a psycho in Bollywood. Isn't that quite tempting?" Well, we definitely agree with her words.
At a time when critiquing everything under the sun is in vogue, a premise revolving around a psychopath who hunts down film critics for their dishonesty while reviewing films, sounds quite thrilling on paper. But does this 'killer' of an idea translate into an engrossing piece of work on screen?
What's Yay: Dulquer Salmaan, Concept
What's Nay: Some technical slipups, Screenplay loses its sheen in a few places.
When a famous film critic is discovered dead in the loo of his house by his wife, little does the investigating officer Arvind Mathur (Sunny Deol) know that this is just the beginning of a nightmare for film reviewers across the city.
The second victim is 'brought on track' in a gruesome way while the third one is hacked to death in an 'artistic way'. Another reviewer has his body parts flung in different areas of a cricket ground. Soon, a series of clues lead Arvind to a conclusion that the serial killer on the loose is a 'critics ka critic'.
In short, he hunts down film critics and slices them open for their dishonest reviews. The killer leaves behind his signature in the form of star ratings on the victim's forehead.
On the other hand, there's a parallel track featuring a recluse florist Danny (Dulquer Salmaan). When not storing tulips in the fridge, he is busy enjoying his two glasses of tea and 'anda burji' at a modest restaurant.
Amid the sea of daisies, tulips and other flora in his shop, when Danny's eyes fall on an entertainment journalist Nila (Shreya Dhanwanthary), it's love at first sight for him. To the tunes of Pyaasa's 'Jaane Kya Tune Kahi', the two hearts soon find solace in each other while the serial killer unleashes mayhem with his twisted mind.
There's a scene in Chup: Revenge Of The Artist where Pooja Bhatt's character Zenobia exclaims, "You critics are killers." At a time when it's often argued whether film reviews affect the box office collections, director-writer R Balki emphasises on the importance of sensitivity in expressing one's thoughts and opinions while judging somebody's piece of work. And what better than paying a ode to legendary filmmaker Guru Dutt whose last directorial was Kaagaz Ke Phool, a misunderstood classic which eventually earned a cult status!
Through his latest outing, R Balki throws light on how wrong criticism can really hurt people badly. With his co-writers Raja Sen and Rishi Virmani, the filmmaker depicts the critique culture which sometimes outweighs the love for good cinema. Some of the witty dialogues land bang on. Sample this- "India mein Scorsese nahin, Shetty chalta hain."
Speaking about the misses, the writing drags a bit and gets verbose at places post interval. Also, the backstory of the wrongdoer barely gives you enough time to connect with his pain, angst and heartbreak. Though Balki compensates that with effective visuals, a little more space for that portion in the narrative would have created a greater impact.
If Dulquer Salmaan's charming Lieutenant Ram swept you off your feet in this year's earlier release Sita Ramam, brace yourself because there's a shocker coming your way but hey, it's a good one! With his tousled hair, enigmatic eyes and 'ah that smile', the actor aces the required 'vibe' to deliver one of his most nuanced performances in recent times. Now, here's a big 'chup' from Dulquer to those who believe that he's only a rom-com guy!
Shreya Dhanwanthary enters the frame like a breeze and lightens up things to bring a smile to your face. If Dulquer's Danny is a nervous bundle of energy, Shreya's Nila is the calm to his storm. Sunny Deol returns back to the marquee with a banger and he's still got that swag! The actor sails smoothly past the film until Balki throws in a melodramatic short outburst which is followed by a poorly-executed action sequence.
Pooja Bhatt sinks her teeth deep into whatever is offered to her and manages to catch your eye in those moments. Saranya Ponvannan makes an impressive Bollywood debut as Nila's mother. The amount of flamboyance and cuteness that she squeezes into every frame is simply winsome.
Balki's favourite, megastar Amitabh Bachchan also steps in for an itsy-bitsy, relevant cameo.
Vishal Sinha lends ample of support to R Balki with his visuals to build the tense tone of the film; be it the cloudy skies, the murky weather, the cool rains or the bright red flow of blood from the killings. Since the film is a love letter to Guru Dutt, Sinha also uses a lot of close-up shots, lighting and metaphors of melancholia.
There are a few stray moments in the first half where the scene transitions are a bit abrupt. Nayan HK Bhadra's editing could have been a little tauter.
Rupali Moghe's mellifluous voice coupled with Shashwant Singh's strong vocals make 'Gaya Gaya' a soothing listen for the ears. Further, the way R Balki weaves in some of Guru Dutt's classic songs like 'Yeh Duniya Agar', 'Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam' and 'Jaane Kya Tune Kahi' in his narrative to give it a different context is simply outstanding.
"Yeh log thoda ratings de dete toh kya jaata. Aasman mein taare thodi kam ho jaate," a cop complains to his colleague when they are stationed under the building of the serial killer's potential target. Fortunately, R Balki's latest film earns enough stars on its own merit.
We give 3.5 stars out of 5 to Dulquer Salmaan-Sunny Deol's Chup: Revenge Of The Artist.