Meghna Gulzar came across the “extremely rampant” issue of acid attacks in 2015 and to bring her take on the subject, Chhapaak, on screen, she roped in Bollywood star Deepika Padukone, who she says will be a “revelation” in the film.
The director said she was amazed how quickly Deepika imbibed the nuances of her character Malti, based on acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal.
“Deepika is going to be a revelation in ‘Chhapaak’. It is a completely different side of Deepika which people will see. When I say that I don’t mean just the look or prosthetics, it’s also about going into the second level of the character the body language, the gestures and the general energy,” Meghna told PTI here on the sidelines of International Film Festival of India (IFFI).
The filmmaker, whose last release Raazi was well-received both by the audiences and critics, said the actor met Laxmi briefly before the shooting began and was able to portray the part with a lot of sensitivity.
“It’s amazing how quickly she picked up the stuff. Even her smile that she has throughout the film, it’s not the Deepika Padukone smile. It’s Malti’s smile. Somewhere we found a middle path between Deepika’s and Laxmi’s smile. It’s been fulfilling to have had her as a part of this film,” she added.
Since her first directorial, Filhaal, to her last, Raazi, Meghna has always told unconventional stories with mainstream actors in the lead.
The director said the desire to take her films to a larger set of audience is the reason behind working with popular actors.
“I want to tell unconventional stories and I wish the story goes as far and wide as possible. I try and get people who are the mainstream faces and voices to help the film travel. I have been fortunate that those people have agreed to come on board and taken the story wider than it could have gone.”
She said she focused specifically on Laxmi’s story as it was one of the most talked about acid violence cases.
“It was a landmark case in the medical community, in the legal community and it had a very unusual social and legal implication because there was a love story.
“When I got to know about it, I realised the best way to deal with the issue was to use Laxmi’s case as the anchor. I got in touch with them and it took me a while to convince them that I’m not going trivialise their stories,” she added.
Meghna has co-written the film with Atika Chohan and she said working on Chhapaak has been a satisfying experience.
“There is a sense of content and immense pride and when I say that I’m not being rude. It’s not like we have done something great. But sometimes when you do things you get this satisfaction that you have done something right and good. I can’t assure that people would like it, but there is satisfaction,” she said.
Chhapaak, backed by Fox Star Studios, also marks Deepika’s foray into film production.
Also featuring Vikrant Massey, the film is slated to be released on January 10.