BADLA review: Murder, They Wrote!

BADLA is one of those words that has a duality about it. In Hindi, it can mean ‘revenge’ as well as ‘change’. And in Sujoy Ghosh’s latest thriller, he manages to incorporate both types of Badla into the sweet mix as he brings together the talents of Taapsee Pannu and the evergreen legend Amitabh Bachchan and place them in a room together to create the intended sparks and magic.

Ghosh, thanks to the Kahaani series, has become a trusted name to the ‘thriller’ genre. And therefore the producers (Red Chillies and Azure Entertainment) have got things easy when you have a name like Ghosh to associate with your thriller, an official remake of a 2016 Spanish thriller The Invisible Guest. The first major change Ghosh does here is the gender-swap on his principal characters from the Spanish original.

Though I haven’t seen the original, it does not take much to predict the final outcome of things. If you pay attention to the details, you can sniff it out right away. And that is not because the character of Badal keeps reminding you of it. But because the structure is such that the main portions are set within a confined room, involving just the two major characters. So you know the surprise also has to spring in from this setting. But Ghosh smartly manages to throw in enough curveballs to keep one guessing till the very end, and even throw offtrack every now and then.

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The case:  A crime in a hotel room in Glasgow. A man murdered, while a woman is found in the same room, next to the body. No signs or possibilities of any entry or exit with no presence of a third person.

The prime suspect is the woman of course, who happens to be Naina (Taapsee) , a highly successful businesswoman who was having an extra marital affair with the deceased. With all evidences pointing to Naina, an expert lawyer Badal Gupta has been roped in as a last minute ditch effort to save the client who stands to lose it all personally and professionally.

Badal, who has the reputation of never having lost a case, is determined to win this too before retiring professionally. However to do so, he needs to get to the bottom of the whole story and for which he drops into Naina’s flat where she is under house-arrest to dig up the whole truth of the stories and events around her case. In the three hour conversation that follows, Badal hopes to get Naina to reveal it all, right to the minutest of details that could prove vital to the case.

As we dive in, the audience also discovers how the disappearance of a young man turns also relevant to this whole case. As more questions and answers are poured out, we realise that there is more to what meets the eyes (Naina) and that one needs to look beyond the clouds (Badal) to reach the other side to all this surrounding mystery to the deaths as we navigate through the various versions coughed up.

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Somewhere in the middle of these discussions, the lawyer throws up an observation about his edgy client. That of there being two types of clients – one that thinks that they are smarter , and the one that genuinely is. And what he deduces about Naina holds true for the movie too. Here the makers do ‘think’ that they are smarter, but the truth unfortunately isn’t so.

Acting wise roping in the PINK duo was a smart choice even though they are repeating the lawyer-client act, but with more varied shades. Yet , despite the fabulous artists that they are, and despite carrying the entire thing on their shoulders, they fail to bring in that extra zing that could make their respective roles truly memorable and a stand-out.

Tony Luke, here had a much more impactful outing than the roles I have seen him earlier in his Malayalam films. Amrita Singh emerges the surprise package and gets a meaty role to sink her teeth into, despite her limited screen time. Manav Paul puts in an extended cameo or sorts, while British actor Tanveer Ghani stood out rather oddly amidst all these.

Cinematographer Avik Mukhopadhyay manages to capture the cold, brooding winters of Glasgow hauntingly well, whenever the narration escapes from the confines of the flat.

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The screenplay keeps twisting and turning things occasionally on its head, keeping the audience very much engaged. Also, the screening where I watched it, thankfully came without an interval, which also helped immensely in keeping the audience on tenterhooks right throughout.

While I could give thumbs up to the staging and the way the cards are played out, the same cannot be said about the problematic “reveal”. It also brings me back to the loopholes that the lawyer bring about how characters develop new skills as necessary as the story goes forward. I do realise that the ending is very much from the original version itself. But then again, the original did not have someone as unique and iconic as Amitabh Bachchan in their cast, did they?

In the world of thrills, this is decent enough even though the pay-off might not be one that had me floored like, say a Kahaani. This is a decent enough thriller from Ghosh that ticks the right boxes, and rides on the talents of its lead actors.

Rating :  3  / 5 

 

 

BADLA (2019)

Cast:  Amitabh Bachchan, Taapsee Pannu, Amrita Singh, Tony Luke, Manav Kaul, Tanveer Ghani

Directed by Sujoy Ghosh

Adapted screenplay by Sujoy Ghosh/ Raj Vasant

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