Badla, the official remake of the Spanish film, Contratiempo (The Invisible Guest) with a gender twist, marks director Sujoy Ghosh’s somewhat return to form after the pretty forgettable Kahaani 2. And while the film, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu, is no Kahaani either, it makes for a worthwhile watch while it lasts.
Badla looks at the interplay between Naina Sethi (Taapsee Pannu), a successful businesswoman, and Badal Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan), a lawyer who has never lost a case and who has a penchant for ‘details’ and ‘facts’. Naina, happily married with a little daughter, is out on bail for the murder of her lover in a hotel room where no one entered and no one left besides Naina and her paramour. If there is someone who can save her from the hangman’s noose, it is Badal provided Naina speaks the truth. But is she? And what of Badal himself?
Sticking to the original as closely as he can, Ghosh stays well within his means as he peels back layer after layer of this ‘Rashomonesque’ thriller, which, admittedly, is gripping enough with its twists and turns plotted at just the right junctures. Sadly though, the predictable denouement brings down the overall impact of the film a notch or two. That the film still holds well enough is largely due to some fine performances by its main cast. Amitabh Bachchan is finally in supreme form again after a string of forgettable roles in recent times. Displaying great sardonic humor, he makes the character of Badal Gupta his own and not even once betrays what might lie beneath that hard exterior. Taapsee Pannu is assured and extremely comfortable sharing the screen with the towering Big B. Taapsee, who shows she could be vulnerable or cruelly wicked if need be, has made a place for herself as a star who has a penchant for portraying well-fleshed out characters rather than getting lost in the typically humdrum song and dance routines of Bollywood.
The surprise package, however, is undoubtedly Amrita Singh as Rani Toor. She is wonderful as the diabolical, revenge seeking mother and reiterates that she needs to be seen far more often on screen. The rest of the casting, though, is rather uneven. Debutant Tony Luke is awkward, while Manav Kaul as Naina’s best friend is wasted.
The film, largely a 2-hour dialogue exchange between Naina and Badal with the odd sequence cut away would not have been half as effective without the able support of its cinematographer, Avik Mukherjee, and editor, Monisha Baldawa. If in October, Mukherjee used colour and light to mesmerising effect, here in Badla, he lenses the film most effectively to dynamite the limited space he is given to photograph. Baldawa ensures the narrative flow keeps moving smoothly having us invested in both, the plot and its lead players. In fact, the opening scene, a rather long dialogue exchange, is brilliantly edited and shot and reminds us of some great dialogue scenes from the Coen Brothers’ movies. Glasgow, too, is nicely captured in the interim outdoor scenes. However, as is the bane of most of our films, the background score is jarring to say the least with noisy crescendoes that only add to the noise factor in the film.
Finally, though Badla may not be a shining star in the firmament of film thrillers, it certainly has its moments and makes for reasonably engaging viewing. Which is more than you can say for most of our films these days.
Hindi, Thriller, Drama, Color
I loved the review though I avoided watching the film – a big exception in my case because I used to be a great Amitabh fan. I do not want to be disillusioned and disappointed by one more Bachchan-like performance and also, I have seen the original Spanish film twice which I did not like at all so I am keeping away. Your review is wonderful and it makes me realise the difference in writing when a filmmaker is reviewing a film and when a critic is doing the same thing. Keep writing and educating us. Good to hear that Mr. Bachchan is finally in his element which he was not for the last few years including PIKU and PINK.
I could not watch your feature film because it appears very dark on my computer screen and I can hardly see anything.