Deepika Padukone’s 2020 film Chhapaak aimed to shed light on the harrowing experiences of acid attack survivors, focusing on the inspiring story of Laxmi Agarwal, an acid attack survivor turned activist. Directed by Meghna Gulzar, the movie, unfortunately, did not perform as expected at the box office. In a recent interview, Gulzar openly acknowledged that Deepika’s visit to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), just three days before the film’s release, had an adverse effect on its reception.
Deepika Padukone’s Stand with JNU
Amidst the nationwide protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the JNU attack in January 2020, Deepika Padukone showed her support for the students of JNU. Her decision to visit the university and stand in solidarity with the students sparked intense debates and garnered attention not only from the media but also on social media platforms.
The Impact on Chhapaak‘s Reception
Meghna Gulzar, expressing her views to the Indian Express, admitted that Deepika’s visit to JNU had an undeniable impact on the perception of Chhapaak. The director stated, “I am sure that the answer is pretty obvious. Yes, of course, it made a dent in the film. Because the conversation went from acid violence, which I intended the film to amplify, to somewhere else. So, of course, it impacted the film. There is no denying that.”
The timing of Deepika’s visit, just days before the film’s release, placed her action in the center of a maelstrom. It diverted attention from the core message of the film, overshadowing the narrative of acid attack survivors. Instead, discussions shifted towards the political aspects surrounding JNU protests and Deepika’s stance. This shift in focus on social media platforms created a negative buzz and hashtags like #BoycottChhapaak and #BlockDeepika began trending on Twitter.
The Diversion of Conversations
Deepika’s visit to JNU divided public opinion. While some applauded her for taking a stand on a matter of national importance, others criticized her for allegedly promoting a particular political agenda instead of focusing on her film’s message. The controversial event prompted discussions that deviated from the intended purpose of Chhapaak – to raise awareness about acid violence and empower survivors.
The controversy surrounding Deepika Padukone’s visit to JNU undoubtedly affected the reception of Chhapaak. The film struggled to generate the desired impact due to the overwhelming attention garnered by polarizing discussions on social media. The controversy also overshadowed the exceptional performances and powerful narrative portrayed in the movie.
Meghna Gulzar’s Upcoming Film
Despite the challenges faced by Chhapaak, director Meghna Gulzar is determined to continue making thought-provoking films. Her upcoming project, Sam Bahadur, is a biographical drama starring Vicky Kaushal as Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. The film aims to shed light on the heroic qualities and sacrifices of Sam Manekshaw, an army general who played a crucial role in India’s military history.
Sam Bahadur is slated to release alongside Ranbir Kapoor’s film Animal. It will be interesting to observe how Gulzar tackles the challenges that may arise during the release of her new film, considering the lessons learned from the reception of Chhapaak.