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A convincing whodunit that has suspense, thrill and superb cast in good form


Film Review                                                                   Badla


A young and successful businesswoman, winner of the young entrepreneur of the year award, has everything working out perfect in her life until she hits a roadblock. She has a loving husband, a beautiful child and a roaring career. Suddenly she gets stuck in a tight spot where she finds herself locked in a hotel room with the dead body of her lover, blood spread from the head injury and money scattered over and around his body. There is no trace of anyone entering or leaving the room. She hires the top lawyer who has not lost a single case in his sprawling career of forty years. Her case being the last before he announced his retirement, he is the best man for the job. The client and the lawyer meet. Do they both trust each other or are there many disclosures swept under the rug, is what comprises the premise of the rest of the movie.
Sujoy Ghosh, the man on the director’s seat knows his work. He successfully maintains the anxious atmosphere expected of this whodunit. Badla, adapted from a successful Spanish thriller, The Invisible Guest, has been kept close to the original story except for minor alterations. The story revolves around the engaging interrogation between lawyer Badal Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan) and client-businesswoman Naina Sethi (Taapsee Pannu), discussion being conducted in Naina’s apartment on a dining table with regular intriguing flashbacks. Naina is the only suspect in the case and she has to come out of it without harming her credibility. The forbidden association culminates into a grave situation that may hamper her personal and professional life. She is unsettled yet arrogant. Despite being in a quandary, she carries a hubristic attitude in the existing worrisome situation. Her lawyer has bleak trust in what she reveals and the film goes back and forth to understand the events with a different version presented each time. Gupta emphasises on detailing while Naina is yet to be sure to trust the lawyer to reveal all and this takes the story to a state where other characters join in to join the dots. The impressive music helps to sustain the un sureness.
Manav Kaul’s short but convincing presence as Jimmy, Naina’s lawyer, is pleasing. Arjun (Tony Luke) in the role of Naina’s lover, is charming and completely in his skin in the respective multiple versions of the story. The most demanding part of the endeavour is handled by the main cast Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu. Big B is completely in his element. Taapsee is good but could have been better in terms of her dialogue delivery, replies and body language. Maybe the role of a powerful woman demanded her to be that shrewd, cunning and sneering.
Badla’s plot lacks logic that is scattered throughout, but is ignorable. Looking at the minor flaws would reduce the enjoyment. It is consistently gripping and nowhere loses its grasp. Going to the nitty-gritties would make one miss many crucial developments in the intelligently conducted interrogation where both the lawyer and the client are in the cat-and-mouse chase. The confusion created due to untruthfulness on part of both at various junctures of their talks, keeps one glued and leaves no time to ponder on the live shots. Simultaneously, the multiple perspectives filmed and shown as flashbacks make it an interesting watch. The mind game remains the USP of this convoluted plot from beginning to the end with a ride into the beautiful forests of Britain.
It would be unfair to not speak loads about the commendable performance by Amrita Singh who plays her part with conviction, seriousness, confidence and ease; a role of a frustrated, helpless mother who has nothing to lose, is made to look tailor-made by her.
All the characters of Badla live in Britain and Scotland, but are coincidently of Indian origin, including both the lawyers. This concurrence is something that gives the film an unnatural texture. There are many other itsy-bitsy, ignorable faults that could have been eliminated including the title of the film that speaks volume in describing the motive in the suspense thriller in one word. Plot may have been broadly predictable but the journey till the end is made an edge-of-the-seat experience.
Badla is edgy and carries many breath-stopping moments. Loaded with twists and turns, lies, truths and semi-truths, the two hours duration seems crispy and shorter. All the heavy lifting is done by the two main actors who keep the audience engrossed in their conversation, giving no time to check even the important messages. Moment one loses attention, one loses the track. Even the neighbour will not be ready to budge to clear the doubts. The interesting screenplay makes it engaging and the close-up shots during the interrogation rightfully capture the emotions, failing not to miss any finer nuances. Efficient camera work and superb acting by the cast makes it a must-watch.
Badla is not to be missed for its effervescent mixture of perky yet stimulating replies, volatile reactions, loads of incessant lies-truth play and ploy.
I go with three stars.