Movie Critique – Badla

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: A dialogue heavy mystery thriller with suspense at the turn of every frame, it is a must watch movie, if you haven't yet - not all truths are truths and not all lies are lies. It is up to you to figure out where they lie in. 

Badla (= Revenge) is a 2019 Indian Hindi-language mystery thriller starring Amitabh Bachchan, Taapsee Pannu and Amrita Singh in the lead cast. Directed by Sujoy Ghosh it is a Red Chillies Entertainment production in collaboration with Azure Entertainment. The movie is set in U. K. 

Naina Sethi (portrayed by Taapsee Pannu) an upcoming successful businesswoman is arrested for the murder of her secret lover, Arjun Joseph (portrayed by Tony Luke).  She insists that she is being wrongfully charged. Her lawyer, Badal Gupta (portrayed by Amitabh Bachchan), to defend her case requests a sit-down to discuss the case. What follows is a detailed interview between Gupta and Sethi regarding the incidents leading up to Arjun's death, thus unraveling past mysteries and identifying the current killer.

This is another one of the film that I watched while on my flight from India to US in March of this year. Having heard from several of my friends that this is a movie that would appeal to my genre that I read or watch, I couldn’t lose the opportunity to watch it, even though I was feeling sleepy and jet lagged. Believe you me the movie kept me wide awake even hours after it ended.

An official adaptation of the 2016 Spanish film, Contratiempo (= The Invisible Guest), the screenplay for this film was written by the director, Ghosh, itself. Produced by Gauri Khan, Sunir Khetarpal and Akshai Puri, the film makers found a gold mine with the plot, cast and the way it was presented to the viewers.

The film has some powerful dialogues, leaning towards several quotes and references to Mahabharat, epic from ancient India. The central idea of keeping the plot in an interrogative mode leads to some very thought provoking dialogues between Gupta and Sethi in the film. 

"Sach Wahi Hota Hai Jo Saabit Kiya Jaa Sake"
"Badla lena har baar sahi nahi hota ... lekin maaf kar dena bhi har baar sahi nahi hota"
"Woh moorkh hota hai joh sirf sach ko hi jaanta hai ... aur sach aur jhooth ke fark ko nahi jaanta hai"

I would not have expected anything less in Big B's movies. If you look at his movies, pretty much he leaves a wake of powerful dialogues and scenes from 90% of his movies that have been immortalized since.

Taapsee Pannu is a cool and calculated Naina Sethi in the film. As much as she is a ruthless business woman, she is also equally ruthless in her personal life, including in dealing with her defense lawyer; a totally cool cucumber.

Amitabh Bachchan needs no words of praise here. Even at the age of 76 (at the time of the making of the film), he comes out at his best as much as he had done in so many movies that made him a great star. Soft as a butter knife, as Badal Gupta, he drives the point home oh so sweetly.

Interestingly enough his first name in the film, Badal, is an anagram of Badla. A direct pointer to the viewers from the beginning of the film itself. Incidentally Bachchan's character in the 1975 Hindi film, Zameer (= Conscience), also was called Badal. Another dead give-away was Tanveer Ghani's voice dubbed by Amitabh Bachchan in the film. He portrays the role of Nirmal "Nimbi" Singh Toor in the film.

Amrita Singh, another veteran actress, is a treat to those who have seen her in films like Betaab, Mard, Saahib, Toofan, Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman, and many more. She hasn’t been acting in a lot of movies lately but some of her movies are memorable. In the film her character Rani Kaur comments that she had her son when she turned 40. In real-life Amrita Singh had her second child, a boy named Ibrahim Ali Khan, in 2001 when she was 43. Interesting improv there. 

Amitabh Bachchan and Amrita Singh were paired together in five movies prior to this - 1985 Mard (= Man), 1989 Batwara (= Division), 1989 Jaadugar (= Magician), 1989 Toofan (= Storm), and 1991 Akeyla (= Alone). They however were part of 2007 film Shootout at Lokhandwala, but did not share a single scene. Even in this film they hardly share screen space.

Tony Luke's introductory film in which he did give a commendable performance. However he reminded me so much of another south Indian actor, J.D. Chakravarthy a lot. May be because of the beard and lean personality Luke resembled Chakravarthy so much. 

Even if it is a mystery thriller, Indian films need songs, even if they are just in the background. So does this film has - five songs (Kyun Rabba, Aukaat, Tum Na Aaye, Badla (on the opening titles) and acoustic version of Kyun Rabba), although I only remember the title track being in the film.

The music was composed by Amaal Mallik, Anupam Roy and Clinton Cerejo to the Lyrics penned by Kumaar, A. M. Turaz, Siddhant Kaushal, Manoj Yadav, Anupam Roy and Jizzy. The playback singers included Armaan Malik, Amit Mishra, Clinton Cerejo, Jizzy, Anupam Roy and Amitabh Bachchan. who did the rap in the song "Aukat"

The open credits shows the title of the film only in English language. We are missing the Hindi and Urdu title cards. Shah Rukh Khan gets special thanks in the opening credits of the movie, obviously Red Chillies Entertainment production company being his.

The movie is shot from multiple character's point of view, giving the viewers several avenues to reach the truth. Reminded me so much of the 2008 American political action thriller film, Vantage Point. 

The film leaves the viewers with thought provoking dialogues making them think about their daily lives in a new light. With suspense and mystery at every turn of the frame, it is a must watch film to get your grey cells going.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. The Spanish film was also adapted to Indian Telugu-language in 2019 as Evaru (= Who?)

b. In the scene at Rani Kaur's home, there are several posters of a lot of theater productions hung on the walls. One of them is the poster of Sidney Lumet classic '12 Angry Men'. Ironically both this film and that have a theme to search the truth from multiple points of view.

c. Badal Gupta quotes about "6 and 9" analogy which has been previously used in two of Bachchan's movies - 1979 Suhaag (= Being Married) and 1986 Aakhree Raasta (= The Last Option).

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. Jimmy Punjabi, Naina's lawyer, claims to know Badal Gupta very well. So how come he doesn’t recognize the voice and refute it when he hears Gupta on the phone. Shouldn’t he have caught the impostor sooner?


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