For an ace director who has given us many delightful movies like Cheeni Kum, Paa, Shamitabh and Pad Man, R. Balki’s latest offering at the theatres Chup: Revenge of the Artist is a bit baffling. The psychological crime thriller is centred around a serial killer who relishes cutting up film critics in the most macabre manner and carving out their own star ratings on their forehead.
It’s a disturbing premise for a movie coming out of an industry where makers and critics have not been unknown to take potshots at each other. But lead actor, Dulquer Salmaan and Balki have garnered so much goodwill in their collective years in the industry that we may be forgiven for wondering what deep, dark issues prompted them to bankroll a movie of this nature.
The National-Award winning filmmaker’s movies have all been met with plaudits, after all, we remind him. “That’s actually wrong,” Balki responds. “This (Chup) is inspired by criticism of Cheeni Kum,” he admits, adding that that being a first time filmmaker he was eager to read the first review by a critic he admired.
“It (Cheeni Kum) was so rudely bashed up, you forget how many people loved it, you forget how many people told you good things about it, because the first thing you ever read was that. So psychologically you are damaged.”
The impact of that first review was so disturbing, he says, that ever since that day Balki has never read a review of his works, unless it was sent across to him personally.
“But before writing Chup, I actually went back and read everything that has ever been written about me, so I know exactly what it is now.”
Disclaiming that Chup was ever meant to be a personal critique of the critics, he points out that the story is not about him or even films for that matter.
“It’s about so many people… even at home when someone is taking a huge effort and cooking a meal, and someone says, ‘What’s this rubbish’, you do get hurt.”
“Nobody is asking the person to praise it, but there is a way to say, I don’t like it so I don’t repeat the same mistake again, so I feel there is need for sensitivity in criticism, of any kind. Today like DQ was saying, everybody with a mobile phone is a critic and everybody is writing anything under the sun, because they feel, it is out there, I can speak out.
“I can speak out versus I can hurt are two different things you know and words hurt a lot more. People think weapons are like guns and knives and things like that…but words are the biggest weapons, you can destroy somebody with words.
“So it's always bothered me how somebody can have a profession, like a critic and not have accountability towards cinema, or any profession you are writing about.”
Despite the impassioned talk, R. Balki seems keen to establish a distance from his subject matter. “It’s not that I don’t have critics as friends,” he clarifies. “It’s nothing personal and neither am I the filmmaker who has gone through the pain of this particular artist (in Chup).”
Balki who has seen nearly all of Dulquer’s movies is all praise for his leading actor’s versatility.
“He’s such a young guy but he has such a body of talent, and yet he always comes across as a fresh face.
“That’s something new about him, so it’s a very rare combination of a seasoned performer who is always fresh. There is not one character you can associate with him, he’s not type cast.”
Balki’s movies are known to showcase actors in a new light, away from their stereotypical images. “Most stars have an image, like this is what they are, but Dulquer doesn’t have that kind of image. He is such a flexible star in that way. That’s a great thing about him.
“And he also pitches it very modernly; he is very understated, and a lot of things come very easily out of him. It’s like second nature… I like the effortless style of his.”
The two-time Oscar winner's novel will be out in May 2023
She stars in the voice cast of Netflix's new animated children's series
We have an exclusive screening of the blockbuster for our readers on September 30
Artistically curated pop-up will feature festive and party wear, jewellery and much more
The singer will also be seen in Salman Khan's upcoming film 'Kisi Ka Bhai, Kisi Ki Jaan'
The veteran actor and director will be essaying the role of freedom fighter and former deputy prime minister Jagjivan Ram
The filmmaker found 'little peace' when he learned that Anurag Kashyap was also not invited