It requires a certain aesthetic to consistently maintain an undertone throughout a narrative, knowing the explosive catharsis that is imminent. Jyoti Kapur Das’ Chutney plays with inherent human insecurities weaving them out into a convoluted triumph of sorts. Tisca Chopra is your proverbial “village-wife”, if that’s a term, from Ghaziabad who has been thrown amidst superficial upscale parties. Her husband, played by Aadil Hussain, is a silent charmer whose escapades with a certain woman are well-known within the society, as he maintains a stance of non-denial. Tisca aka “Bhabhi” notices Rasika Duggal’s unsubtle flirtations with silent submission. Rasika too, realising that the act is over, puts up a pretense of being overly sociable and invites herself over to Bhabhiji’s place so that she could learn some cooking from her expert hands. The small talk that should have faded away into thin air is brought out into the spotlight as Bhabhiji insists that she come over the next day. Although she seems amiable on the outlook, her eyes seem to have hatched a plan. This moment is so masterfully done that even the most unsuspecting of us would sit up and remark – “She is gonna kill her, isn’t she ?” When Rasika calls upon Bhabhiji the next day, the atmosphere feels tense but Bhabhiji’s amicable manner dispels that, again converging on the dichotomy of moments both simplistic and foreboding. As pakodas (fried fritters) are served, a special Chutney is also served as accompaniment. Rasika is astounded by the delicious taste of the Chutney and asks about the recipe. Bhabhiji sits back like a calculating orchestra conductor and narrates a story that would provide the dark overture to the tale …
Chutney’s essence is its characters. Chopra’s rustic, simpleton look is an anti-thesis to the ice-cold schemer that she is. She is unfazed by the unexpected and uses situations towards a ghastly finale. Duggal is the prodigal seductress but as the story progresses she cowers under the growing shadow of doubt and unease. Das’ shots purport a washed out visage to the look of the film, as if to make us underestimate the characters. The morbid feel of the screenplay is how you would expect an Edgar Allan Poe story to be, death staring at you from the hinges. The climax creeps up on you with an unsaid pleasure like that “organic” chutney that they relish with sweet realization.
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