Ribhu Dasgupta’s The Girl On The Train, based upon the popular novel of the same name by Paula Hawkins and the Hollywood film based thereon, is a straightforward mystery-thriller that depends on its hurried pacing and places a heavy emphasis on simply jumping from clue to clue and event to event rather than spending more time to explore and flesh out its characters. Streaming on Netflix, the narrative of the film lingers highly superficially atop its surface without any sort of probing beneath. What results, therefore, is a film that derails pretty quickly and is highly disappointing on most counts.
The Girl On The Train begins at night as an ominous soundtrack leads us into the Greenwich jungle where Nusrat John (Aditi Rao Hydari) is chased by a hooded assailant. As the frightened soul runs for her life, she stumbles and her phone drops in the woods. Finally, she hides behind the trunk of the tree, only to be discovered by the attacker later. Immediately on cue, we cut to the High Road Station where our protagonist Mira Kapoor (Parineeti Chopra) is standing alone on the platform thereby setting us up for a connection between these two women in the narrative to follow.
Mira’s face is bruised and she is feeling woozy. Through a flashback, it is revealed that she is a lawyer in London, who is threatened from fighting a court case against a pub owner of Indian origin, Jimmy Bagga (Krishan Tandon), charged with murder. Her courageous fighting of the case in court gets Jimmy sentenced. But she had to pay a heavy price for sticking to her guns as she loses her unborn child in a car crash and becomes an alcoholic and an amnesiac. This jeopardizes her married life too. Even as she tries to take control of her shattered life, in her daily commute; her train passes her old house where she and her husband stayed happily once. But now another couple, Anand (Shamaun Ahmed) and Nusrat, have occupied the space and Mira watches them every day and envisages them to be a happy and blissful couple. But one day an unfortunate event occurs and the viewers are made to believe that our protagonist is culpable. A police officer, Dalbir Kaur (Kirti Kulhari), takes up the case and the hunt for the culprit begins…
The writing and treatment for what could have been an edge-of-the-seat psychological thriller are woeful. When we see Mira, we see her down and out. Yet a voice-over narration is forced upon us to make sure we understand what is going on with her and we empathize with her. When we can see and feel, why spoon-feed us to a podcast? To make matters worse, her character arc is so weakly sketched that all the suffering and the obstacles that Mira encounters do not seem organic at all. Even the police investigation that happens throughout the film is amateurishly handled. The key scenes largely offer no surprises and as the film approaches its climax and Mira pieces together the dots, the so-called astonishing facts leave us dumfounded, not by the brilliance of the twists but by the sheer incredible and witless reasonings for them. It leaves you truly gobsmacked.
Even the performances can’t save the truly dreadful screenplay. No doubt, Parineeti Chopra has tried her best to bring the character of Mira Kapoor to life and Aditi Rao Hydari as the tormented woman also tries to draw much empathy from the viewers. But they are well and truly defeated by the material. Kirti Kulhari as the investigating cop manages to add some flesh and blood to her role while Tota Roy Chowdhury in his brief screen presence as a Psychiatrist does a convincing job. However, the major disappointment comes from Avinash Tiwary as Mira’s husband, Shekhar. Though his character has its moments and different shades, he fails to bring them out convincingly.
If one person rises above the script, it is cinematographer Tribuvan Babu Sadineni. The film is beautifully framed and shot in palettes soaked with super-saturated colours. In spite of the superficial characterisations, few of the close-ups do elicit psychological reactions. But even he can salvage the film only up to a point. The other technicalities so their bit in letting the film down further. The editing is unable to create a suitable rhythm and pace to heighten the narrative’s dramatic impact while maintaining its tension and suspense, a must for any thriller. The production design functions mostly in making the film appear dazzling rather than in the service of the story. Most of the touristy locations in London are incorporated within the film to no relevance to the story. And to make matters worse, the background score by Gilad Benamram has been used ever so extensively to make sure we ‘feel’ the moods and emotions of the characters and the story instead of giving us some silence and introspection.
Overall, The Girl on the Train is a thriller that vastly undermines the potential of its source material. It has little to offer and is to be watched by the viewer at his or her own risk only.
Hindi, Thriller, Drama, Color