Except for a few ones in the 50s and 60s and a handful few in the contemporary times Bollywood has seldom been able to dominate the Suspense genre of films. Let’s be honest, the last good Bollywood suspense thriller was the Sujoy Ghosh directed “Kahaani” In 2012. Hence, when the trailer for “Badla” came out, fans of the genre were elated. Not to mention the reunion of the power pair from “Pink”, Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu became the talk of the town.
Needless to say, expectations were high. And “Badla” not only fulfills those expectations but literally knocks it out of the park. Being the official adaptation of the acclaimed 2016 Spanish film “Contratiempo” (The Invisible Guest) Indianizing the script and the characters wasn’t easy. But that’s what was expected from Ghosh. And boy did he deliver! Here’s an analysis of this week’s “Badla”.
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The film takes us directly to the action without wasting any time as we come to know later that time is, in fact, a very important element. The advocate extraordinaire Badal Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan) arrives at the house of an out-on-bail murder suspect Naina Sethi (Taapsee Pannu), who insists that she’s being framed for a crime she hasn’t committed. Badal claims that he has been hired by her attorney Jimmy (Manav Kaul) to protect her from ending up in prison. They have but three hours before the prosecution produces a new witness in front of the judge which can prove fatal for Naina and the only way to get out of this pickle is for Naina to tell him “The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.
Thus begins a subtle cat and mouse chase between the experienced lawyer and The big shot businesswoman which nearly allows you to take a breather. This woman who had everything, money, power, fame, family, can lose it all if her affair with photographer Arjun (Tony Luke) is revealed. Circumstances lead the pair on the verge of unraveling this ugly truth to the world themselves and both keep on cooking up piles of lies for a cover-up. Arjun gets murdered and Naina is found in a hotel room next to his dead body. Did she do it? If not her, then who? Is she telling the truth? If not then what is the truth? The film is finely paced bringing you new surprises at every turn but not once the audience feels overwhelmed with the revelations as with every answer comes to another question.
The film makes quite a few references to the Mahabharat, citing characters like Sanjay and Dhritarashtra quoting Lord Krishna and Draupadi turning the genre into a memoir on the righteousness of punishment and retribution. Not being preachy at all the film makes a point crystal clear that your actions must and will have consequences. The film actually reminded me of a lot of other classics. The closed room conversation between the suspect businesswoman and the veteran lawyer contemplating possible versions of a single story reminds me of “Rashomon” and “12 Angry Men”. Naina’s narrative, her leaving out important details and being retorted by Badal time and again gives an essence of “The Usual Suspects”. And the climax is no less than a Shyamalan twist. That being said, none of the above films have been plagiarized and the story and characters feel fresh.
The film would have not been the same without the two lead actors. Taapsee Pannu is convincing as a confident independent woman who somehow finds herself in a deep pickle and is trying everything possible to maintain her name and fame in the world. She has proven her mettle previously also with “Pink” and “Manmarziyan”. “Badla” is yet another feather in her cap Those of us (like me…) who always miss the old school, low voiced, badass Amitabh Bachchan will not get disappointed as the actor doesn’t skip a single beat with his character of the truth-seeking advocate. He portrays Badal Gupta so effortlessly as if the character was created just for him to play. But to say that these two carried the whole film exclusively would be impertinent to other actors like the ever so magical Amrita Singh who plays a pivotal role in the film. Sadly she now makes limited appearances in films but when she does, like in “Badla”, she leaves us in awe at the sheer the power and conviction she possesses. Manav Kaul’s screen presence is not much but he has done justice to his character.
Tanveer Ghani as Amrita Singh’s husband performs with ease. The writing by Sujoy Ghosh and Raj Vasant does not let you remind yourself that it’s a remake of a Spanish film. Even if you have already watched “Contratiempo” you’ll be on the edge of your seat with every revelation. You’ll also connect with the story as the characters don’t seem alien even when the story takes place in Scotland. The camera work of the film is marvelous. Abhik Mukhopadhyay has shot the Scottish landscape beautifully. On the whole, Badla is a movie that is worth your money at least once. It’s a bumpy rollercoaster ride that’ll keep you guessing till the end. Here’s giving 3.5 out of 5 stars to Badla. If you have any other plans this weekend, skip them and watch this film for the sheer thrill that has been missing in Bollywood movies for long.