The enormously talented actress Tisca Chopra has turned producer with a short story that left me panting for more. The economy of expression compounded by an austerity of emotional leverage gives to “Chutney”, the short story with a long content-drive, a kind of reined-in heft that feature films should emulate.
You don’t need two hours to establish characters or build a momentum in the plot. Just a look, a gesture or a swipe would suffice provided the emotions underlining the narrative are worked out in detail in the script. In brief, the blueprint is cut before the camera gets into action.
Almost all of the very disturbing plot of “Chutney” unfolds through a conversation between a housewife from Ghaziabad (Tisca in a very convincing frumpy makeup) and a woman who is a threat to her marriage (played with saucy relish – in more ways than one – by Rasika). Tisca plays the wife with compelling but casual candour. She looks different, yes. But that’s just a part, a very small part of what she does with her part. She gives to the wife a kind of ‘don’t-mess-with-my-marriage’ finality and ‘I-won’t-let-you-cheat’ closure that I found disarming and disturbing. If Tisca’s wifely concerns were not so tragic, they’d actually be fodder for a black comedy.
Adultery and unfaithful husbands run through the plot scampering across the hazily hectic horizon of the plot redolent with threats of toxification and death. There are two domestic servants in the plot, one is killed after he discovers his wife cheating on him, the other one spits into the glasses of cold beverage before serving them to his employee and her guest.Maybe we should just go for self-help.
“Chutney” is a small slight and fragile on the top but very assured sturdy and self-composed underneath. It is held together by the smaller performers who flit in and out with an energetic anxiety helping the director to create a sense of imminent doom. But it’s Tisca Chopra’s central performance that really holds the plot at the hinges and prevents it from coming undone in spite its over-ambitious overtures that threaten to over-run the adulterous drama.
After watching “Chutney”, we are unlikely to dip into a bowl of ‘dhaniya’ chutney without feeling our stomach churn, or be tempted to cheat on our spouses without wondering what sort of nemesis awaits at the end of sexual revelry. This is a a short film that serves up quite a dish for Tisca Chopra to nibble on. She chews up the scenes, and kills it, in unexpected ways.
Film: “Chutney”; Directed by Jyothi Kapoor Das; Starring: Tisca Chopra, Adil Hussain, Rasika Duggal; Rating: *** 1/2 (3 and a half stars)