Based on the Korean film, Montage (2013), TE3N could well have been an engaging edge-of-the-seat thriller but its sluggish pace and its inability to prevent its main twists from being deciphered well before they occur don’t help the film’s cause. Add to it a top notch cast that is not at their best and you have a film that is disappointing to say the least.
Ribhu Dasgupta’s second film after Michael (2011) has us looking at elderly gentleman John Biswas (Amitabh Bachchan), who is trying to get closure and figure out what really happened in a kidnapping case gone wrong 8 years ago wherein his abducted grand-daughter, Angela, died. When a child is kidnapped in much the similar manner in the present, woman police officer Sarita Sarkar (Vidya Balan) handles the case and she involves a priest, Father Martin Das (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), in the investigation. Martin is a cop turned padre who was part of the botched up operation 8 years earlier and has since turned to God for solace. Even as the hunt for the kidnapper is on, John appears to continue with his own investigations to try and bring a finality to Angela’s kidnapping and figure out the person behind it.
Admittedly, TE3N has an interesting enough plot that does suck you into the investigation. And it also boasts of some decent atmospheric filming on location in Kolkata and a commendable enough production design by Tamnoy Chakraborty. However, the screenplay needed to tell its story at a brisker pace while also being clever in its plotting. In spite of all the red herrings it throws around and the occasional intriguing plot point, TE3N is a letdown finally. One could still have gone along with the film were it a more character driven film even at the cost of its thriller element, but barring John, all the other characters are sketchily fleshed out to say the least. Sarita, in particular, is totally wasted and one would have liked to see her relationship with Martin and their ambiguous past explored in some more depth to give us something more to invest in them. The narrative structure, too, is confusing as it cuts back and forth between the earlier incident and the present, its disorientation compounded by the fact that none of the characters seem to have physically aged in the period in between, the only change being that John’s wife, Nancy, is now wheelchair-bound. While not wanting to reveal it as a spoiler, let’s just say John’s investigation has an element of the big cheat in it. And I’m not even getting into logical loopholes like the audio cassette playing like a stuck LP.
The performances are also not quite there in spite of the great ensemble put together. While Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vidya Balan struggle to bring their characters to life, Big B, though having his odd moment or two, is far too obvious and always appears to be ‘acting’. And Sabyasachi Chakraborty adds his bit of hamming to make it not quite the memorable film as far as histrionics are concerned.
Tushar Kanti Ray’s vivid camerawork brings Kolkata alive but you do feel the location could have been integrated much better as a character within the story. The songs and the background score by Clinton Cerejo are so-so while the editing pattern (Gairik Sarkar) is inconsistent. A poor use of sound leads you to guess the identity of the kidnapper in both cases well before they’re actually revealed.
All in all, barring a few interesting moments here and there, TE3N fails to deliver.
Hindi, Drama, Thriller, Color
Editing is rather poor. Also in a narrative structure intercutting the present investigation with Bachchan investigating in the past I felt cheated.
Yes, the back and forth caused more confusion rather than achieve anything else.
Disappointing to say the least. But the pr and marketing in Kolkata have been so hyped right through its making that few critics will have the courage of the little boy from The Emperor’s New Clothes. Specially with Bachchan grabbing eyeballs, Kolkatans will hype the film to the skies, something it does not deserve. I agree with you about the very confusing script where the timelines confuse rather than make clear.
Very disappointing. The plot itself is very weak. Where’s the logic for the title? First half was slow but okay considering built up. Second half was a disaster.