Chhapaak (transl. Splash) is a 2020 Indian Hindi-language drama film directed by Meghna Gulzar and produced by Deepika Padukone and Meghna Gulzar in collaboration with Fox Star Studios. Based on the life of Laxmi Agarwal, it stars Padukone as an acid attack survivor alongside Vikrant Massey and Madhurjeet Sarghi. The film is Padukone’s first after a two-year gap, she was last seen in Padmaavat. The film was announced on 24 December 2018 by Padukone on her Twitter account; it marks her first production venture. Filming took place from March to June 2019 in New Delhi and Mumbai. The film was theatrically released in India on 10 January 2020. The film was allowed by the government to be exhibited without payment of taxes in the states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. It received positive reviews from critics but did not perform well commercially.
Plot: A reporter named Alka meets Amol Dwivedi, the creator of a foundation for acid attack survivors, and informs him about Malti Aggarwal, one such survivor fighting for a ban on the sale of acid. Malti is looking for employment, and Amol employs her at his organization.
In April 2005, Malti is attacked with acid in a busy market street in New Delhi. The police investigate – based on Malti’s and her boyfriend Rajesh’s testimony, they suspect Basheer “Babbu” Khan, a family friend of Malti’s, and his brother’s wife Parveen Shaikh. The police arrest Babbu after triangulating his phone signal in the same area as the attack, while Malti undergoes a series of surgeries to reconstruct her severely damaged face. Malti’s parents work as domestic help in Shiraz’s house; she helps financially with Malti’s treatment and hires Archana Bajaj to be her lawyer.
Archana notes that acid attacks and burning someone with hot water come under the same section of the Indian Penal Code, so the punishment will be the same. In the first hearings, it is clear that Babbu and Parveen are guilty, as Malti’s story is corroborated by witnesses and Parveen has the tell-tale burnt fingers from throwing the acid. However, as the law doesn’t treat the acid attack as a serious crime, Babbu is able to make bail and continue on with his life. Malti recognizes the need for a change to the law and regulations on the acid sale, and she and Archana prepare a petition. Meanwhile, Malti’s brother Rohit is diagnosed with advanced intestinal tuberculosis.
In August 2009, the court sentences Basheer Khan to 10 years and Parveen Shaikh to 7 years of imprisonment, but they appeal to the High Court. Malti collects funds for treatment and legal action for other acid attack survivors. She eventually succeeds in having the penal code amended. In 2013, another acid attack in Mumbai claims the life of Pinky Rathore, which leads to public outrage and regulations on acid sale. Malti becomes the face of acid attack survivors and develops feelings for Amol.
It is revealed that Basheer planned the acid attack on Malti in jealousy, and carried it out with help from Parveen. In October 2013, the Delhi High Court rejects Basheer’s appeal, keeping the attackers in jail. The film ends with another acid attack in December 2013 and laments that despite the new regulations and media exposure, the frequency of acid attacks has not decreased, while acid is still bought and sold freely in India. The film is based on the real-life story of acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal.