After long, Bollywood’s come out with a cracker of a film that’s got all the masala of a riveting murder mystery and suspense thriller. And, just because it’s pitched Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu again after Pink, which was a courtroom drama in which Mr. B played a bipolar lawyer, and Badla has the veteran actor playing a sort of lawyer-investigator preparing murder accused Taapsee to face the prosecution, it doesn’t mean Badla is anything like Pink. Far from it. The two films are as alike the proverbial chalk and cheese. What’s common in them, though, are the brilliant performances by the two actors. Especially Mr. B whose most diehard fans need some reason to forgive him for accepting Thugs of Hindostan.
There’s nothing much to tell because it’s a film to be watched and enjoyed and not analysed on paper and the script has intricate and intriguing twists and turns every few minutes that keep you engrossed and entertained and busy trying to solve the whodunit yourself. Director Sujoy Ghosh sets the pace at the start with the title track Aukaat that’s rap delivered by Mr. B and Clinton Cerejo in the fast-paced manner recently popularised by Gully Boy. You know something good is about to follow. The story is simple. Taapsee plays a UK Businesswoman of the Year awardee involved in an affair with Luke Kenny a fashion photographer and is seeking to break away from him after a final night at a Scottish love nest. Their car meets with an accident and there is a death on the scene of a stranger. They try to cover it up by sinking the evidence. But it comes back to haunt them with a mysterious blackmailer and ends in the murder of Luke at another Scottish heritage hotel for which Taapsee is blamed. Mr. B, who has an unblemished 40-year-old record, comes out of retirement to save her. And thereby hangs a tale. There’s just one other actor playing a prominent role and that is Amrita Singh who ought to seriously consider making her Bollywood comeback permanent.
Taapsee is good as the accused, sometimes resigned and frustrated by her fate, other times sharp as a whip and calculating how she might escape the charges. As for Mr. B, he is himself in Badla, the baritone voice is gravelly and his expressions sympathetic, thoughtful, then cunning and meaningful, as he gets into a cut and thrust investigation with Taapsee to discover what really happened at the Scottish hotel on the night of the murder. The entire film is shot almost in one room. But when the camera strays outside, it shows Scotland in winter, and the landscape with its cafes and train stations is as white and beautiful as it is dark and eerie with the forests and lakes of the countryside. You get a sense of who the killer is midway through the film because the action is just between Taapsee, Mr. B and Amrita with the other major player being Luke who is disposed of shortly after the start. The film goes back and forth, flashback to present day, with the flashback being presented in different scenarios leaving you wondering which one is the real. But the end will leave you, well, surprised. That’s what the badla is all about.
Hats off to Sujoy who even if he adapted the foreign film The Invisible Guest to make Badla, has done it keeping Bollywood audience sensibilities in mind.
PeepingMoon.com gives Badla 3.5 Moons