Was Meghna Gulzar and Deepika Padukone’s Chhapaak expected to not work at the box-office? Probably yes.
Films in which leading men or ladies have done roles which do not give importance to their USPs have more often than not failed. This is especially true of those heroes and heroines who have used their USPs to great advantage. Stars like Aamir Khan and Ayushmann Khurrana have not let their stardom decide what films they will sign, going instead by the roles and characters. But most of the other leading men and ladies have become victims of their images and USPs (read beauty, charm, charisma, good looks, good voice, excellent dialogue delivery etc.).
In Chhapaak, Deepika who is known for her beauty and glamour quotient, plays an acid attack survivor. The scars on her face, after her jilted lover throws acid on her face, took away the USP of her glamour and beauty. That’s a major reason why people did not go to watch the film. Salman Khan suffered on the same count in Tubelight which showed the handsome hunk as a slightly retarded young man. Now, when the audiences go to watch a Salman starrer, the least they expect is that he will look great, look far younger than his age, wear fashionable clothes, use his charm over his leading lady, sing songs and, perhaps, beat up the goons. In Tubelight, he did nothing of the sort. Consequently, the film faced rejection. Salman’s Bharat, in which he played an old man (although a handsome one), also had to pay the price for the absence of the star’s USP. Years ago, Nana Patekar, known as much for his firebrand dialogue delivery as for his natural acting, played a mute man in Khamoshi – The Musical. Result: the film turned turkey at the turnstiles. The public which went to watch the film felt cheated because they missed Nana’s dialogues spoken in his typical style.
One is reminded of Sunny Deol’s Right Yaaa Wrong in which the action hero was made invalid in the initial reels itself. Who was interested in seeing a wheelchair-bound Sunny. Resultantly, the film proved a debacle as the role was not right for Sunny, rather it was completely wrong! Years ago, Dharmendra delivered a lovely performance in Paap Ko Jalaa Kar Raakh Kar Doonga but the film simply couldn’t make any mark at the box-office because the rough and tough hero, the he-man of Bollywood was shown to be an emotional guy who shed tears time and again. The film’s distributors then did the same on seeing the film’s collections. More recently, Shah Rukh Khan burnt his fingers in Zero in which he was cast as a vertically-challenged man. The charmer, the ladies’ man, the guy who could simply stretch his arms out and get all the love of the public for just that was not liked in this experimental role.
Stars may argue that they work in such films to satisfy their creative urge but then, they should have guarded against being trapped in their own image and against letting their USPs overpower their all else.
Somewhere, the paying public decides whether it wants to see a film or not, by watching the trailer. In the case of Chhapaak, a lot of people had clearly decided they would not see the film if only because they couldn’t bear to watch the oh-so-beautiful Deepika playing the acid attack victim throughout the film.