Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Tapsee Pannu
Director: Sujoy Ghosh
If you are the sort that is attentive to details, Badla, as the film’s title suggests, is a revenge story wrapped in a whodunit.
A man named Arjun is found murdered in the hotel and the prime suspect in the case is his clandestine lover Naina Sethi who was accompanying him. Over the course of the film, we find out answers to the who, what why behind Arjun’s death. For the larger part, as the film progresses, the plot unravels layer after layer. Adapted from the Spanish film Contratiempo (The Invisible Guest) by Oriol Paulo, Badla makes an important switch—that of the gender of its protagonists. Actress Taapsee Pannu as Naina Sethi and Amitabh Bachchan as her lawyer Badal Gupta are the two key protagonists entrusted with the task of keeping the audience guessing. The film rests squarely on their shoulders—to help the audience arrive at the truth through their versions of what possibly transpired that fateful day when Arjun was killed.
Amitabh Bachchan, who has a mastery over larger-than-life lead and supporting roles, is a surprise. Badla does not have the stirring soliloquies that one expects of the actor and yet he rises to the challenge with an understated and taut glibness in just the adequate measure required for the film.
With his imposing screen presence, being pitted against Bachchan in a film is a daunting challenge even for the veterans in the business, but Pannu holds her own. The fact that she has worked with him in Pink earlier probably helps, but it also marks Pannu’s own growth as an actor. She is getting better with every film capturing a range of emotions instead of being a one-note actor. Incidentally, the role she essays in the film is played by a male in the original Spanish film, but Badla, if anything, is better for the role reversal.
The adapted screenplay and dialogues by the film’s director Sujoy Ghosh and Raj Vasant are effective in keeping the suspense ticking along. An interplay of the varying contradictive narratives from each protagonist, throws up a surprise time and again, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. After Kahaani, Ghosh as a director has owned the thriller space for some time now and in Badla, he displays his flair to advantage. Badla, in the tradition of good thrillers does not suffer from excessive melodrama or plot points that are bogged down by Hindi-movie must-haves. The multiple layers in the story fall neatly into place without complicating matters more than they require, although bringing down the over-explanatory tone a few notches would have probably raised the intrigue quotient.
The only missing piece is the local detailing that Ghosh masterfully embellishes his films with (Kahaani and Kahaani 2), the result perhaps of adapting a successful international story. Dialogues in this film are critical given that it is the conversations between the defendant and the defender on which the film rests and Ghosh’s and Vasant do well on that front. Editing by Monisha Baldwana plays a key role in ensuring that the film is shorn of all narrative flab.
Overall, Badla, is a watchable revenge story worthy of its name.
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