It is after a long long time that I have seen an audience break into applause spontaneously at the end of a movie. The last time I witnessed that was in a Leicester Square cinema hall in 2007, but then it was the premiere of The Last Lear at the London Film Festival. Incidentally both films starred Amitabh Bachchan.
Sujoy Ghosh is a winner when it comes to slick screenplays. Remember Kahaani and Kahaani 2 directed by him? Badla is an official adaptation of a Spanish film, and the screenplay is taut and terrific.
Taapsee Pannu plays Naina Sethi, a married business woman who has been accused of murdering her boyfriend Arjun (Tony Luke). She claims innocence. The incident blows up her affair in the media, and her husband deserts her taking their child along. She is out on bail. Amitabh Bachchan plays a lawyer who is supposed to have never lost a case.
What makes the film viewing experience rivetting are the onion-like layers of the story. Sujoy is great with fixing jigsaw-like story lines. The pieces are put in place one by one until the jigsaw almost appears to be complete. Only when you notice one minor missing piece, fitting which jumbles up everything else that fitted before!
The film is borne on the capable shoulders of Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu. Both are consummate actors, and when you exit the theatre you realize that more than half the film was spent with these two protagonists sitting across a table and talking to each other. And yet the mind games are so engrossing that you hardly find the talking tedious. The direction needs to be commended for not breaking the rhythm with needless song and dance. Pannu shows shades of brilliance as she depicts vulnerability, trust, cleverness and confusion in different parts of the film.
Bachchan makes monologues from the Mahabharata worth revising. He keeps you captivated even when he is playing an old disbelieving lawyer who is picking holes in the accused’s story. The references to Dhritarashtra and Sanjay were most appealing in light of what follows. But Bachchan is best with little nuances. Like you can’t miss the skip and jump when he crosses the street. Or the way he throws up his hands in disbelief.
The other bright spot of the film is undoubtedly Amrita Singh. She is a solid actress and this film showcases her worth well. Tony Luke in his debut role in a Hindi film also does justice to his part.
Badla released in Wardha only this week. And since the release elsewhere in the country last week, I have been inundated by requests to write a review of the film. It is the first time I have been bludgeoned into watching a film by my readers. But it was more than worth the experience.
Shot in Glasgow, the scenic winter shots in Badla are pretty. But beyond the beauty lies a chilling story. Are you able to see beyond what is being served to you— is the big question? Perhaps that’s the message that you need to carry out of the theatres as well.
Watch it. I would rate it better than Kahaani 2. Without the paraphernalia of glitz and glamour, the film is a crisp watch. Highly recommended.