Rating: 3 Stars
“Nuts?” A street vendor screams, while an aged man, smirks and responds: “I must be?” That, in essence is what Sujoy Ghosh’s Badla encapsulates. An attempt by a Bollywood filmmaker to rehash a movie, that’s already on Netflix.
Apart from swapping the genders of the main protagonists and adding a sprinkling of Mahabharata, Ghosh remains painfully faithful to the world Spanish writer-director Oriol Paulo created in 2016 for The Invisible Guest. For a man who showcased his penchant for thrillers with his much-loved Kahaani, Ghosh, unfortunately, refuses to take any risks on the “official adaptation”, and blindly piggybanks on Paulo’s work. Every shot, from the snow-clad setting for the crucial crime scene is an exact copy, and possibly why the movie is set in the UK.
Ghosh’s only contribution – the gender-swap, however, proves futile, and shakes up the basic premise of the crime, leaving behind a rather implausible cover-up. And this, when the main man constantly harps about “focusing on the details” to fix an alibi ahead of the murder trial.
Like the original, this one too is predictable, with the audience able to second-guess the climax much before it’s unveiled. It also relies heavily on stylised shots and intriguing performances. Abhik Mukhopadhyay’s frames add texture to the crime scene and its investigation there after, slowly exposing a world riddled with insecurities and selfishness.
His canvas accentuates the tête-à-tête that Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu indulge in as they attempt to outdo one another, and sell their truth. Bachchan is impeccable as the pushy lawyer who refuses to give up without a worthy fight. Armed with a wry sense of humour, he manages to set the battlefield in his favour. Taapsee manages to match him at every turn.
Amrita Singh also steps in with a remarkable performance and lends depth to the proceedings while Manav Kaul, despite a tiny part, is reliably solid. There’s also new face Tony Luke, who despite an unforgiving south Indian twang, manages to hold his own. Unfortunately, Amrita’s partner appears a misfit.
And just like the Spanish version, Ghosh and writer Raj Vasant don’t dilute the Bollywood version with song-and-dance and skip the INTERVAL altogether.
At 125 minutes, ‘Badla’ is a thrilling watch. But, Ghosh can’t take any credit for it.