The encounter between the two central characters forms the crux of the film
Directed by Sujoy Ghosh, Badla is an official remake of the 2016/2017 Spanish hit film ‘The Invisible Guest’ or Contratiempo.
The director who has also adapted the screenplay remains true to the original version. He has only changed the genders of the principal characters.
Also, unlike the Spanish film, Badla features dictums and ideas from the Mahabharata which adds an Indian flavour to the movie.
The murder mystery thriller is, thus, a true cinematic treat that wholeheartedly delves into guilt, retribution, vengeance, and crime.
Whilst the Oriol Paulo directed Spanish film is set in Bierge and Barcelona, Badla is set in winter-time Glasgow.
Ghosh had made great use of Kolkata as a setting for Kahaani. He does the same with Glasgow; the wintery chill of the surroundings only add to the overall suspense.
Badla tells the story of a witty married woman Naina Sethi, played by Taapsee Pannu, who has an affair with a married photographer.
The photographer Arjun Joseph (Tony Luke in his first Hindi movie) is killed one night and Naina who is there with him gets arrested for the murder.
From there the director, the writer, the actors, and others involved with the film take the audience through a surreal trip that is worth every second.
Badla is a film that digs itself out of the restrictions imposed by the crime thriller genre by highlighting payback and culpability whilst retaining its edginess.
The numerous turns and twists in the film best serve the viewers’ cinematic experience if they have not watched the original movie.
However, even if they have watched it, the sheer brilliance of the collectives that form Badla, make it an un-missable trip to the theatres.
Upon release in Spain, the critical response for ‘The Invisible Guest’ was lukewarm. However, it wowed the audiences and became a big commercial hit.
Fabulous Repartee, Tension, and the Rest
Badla, the movie, actually begins after the foundations of the story have been set in place.
Naina is out on bail and has hired an overworked lawyer Jimmy, finely portrayed by Manav Kaul in a brief role.
Jimmy convinces retired lawyer Badal Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan) to help with the case. Therein begins the joust, which keeps you gripped till the very end.
Badal has never lost a case in his long career and Naina is convinced that someone is trying to implicate her in the murder case.
But the film is not just about the two. In addition to the lead characters, there are numerous cops, detectives, and even a couple living in the woods.
Amrita Singh, as a woman living with her husband in the woods, essays one of the best roles in her career.
The joust or the interrogation of Naina by Badal is aimed at ensuring that the case remains watertight and prevents her from being jailed.
The encounter between the two central characters forms the crux of the film as it weaves in and out of the past, the present, and varied possibilities.
Their conversation has numerous references to the different characters in Mahabharata, including Lord Krishna, Draupadi, Arjuna, Sanjaya, and Dhritarashtra.
The play between the two main leads quickly turns into a cat and mouse game, wherein one is fully aware of the truth and the other knows not much.
Different versions of what may have occurred are placed in front of the audience, and there is a continuous oscillation from one startling thought to another.
The play consumes a majority of the reel time, before the end minutes which feature a negative deposition and an unexpected prosecution eyewitness.
Everything that works for Badla
Badla is around two hours long and that time has been used really well by the director to present an intriguing plot in a taut package.
The supreme rendering of the characters by the many actors help bolster the overall impact of the film.
The lawyer keeps trying to eke out the complete truth, whilst his client tries her best to complicate the series of events that occurred prior to the murder.
That throws up a new astonishing twist every few minutes! There is easy manipulation of facts and an extensive hunt for alibis.
All of the above drive the narrative into many small and big reveals that divert the viewers’ attention either to or away from what actually happened that night.
The question of who came to the hotel committed the murder, and left without leaving any trace or witness keeps haunting the audience all through the film.
Trying to understand all the half-truths, lies, and the truths wrapped into the storyline can be cumbersome! But that is what makes Badla so interesting!
There are a few shortcomings in Badla, like people in Glasgow talking in Hindi, but these can be overlooked due to the expert retelling of the layered narrative.
The banter between the businesswoman client and the lawyer continuously go back and forth, from the grim to the playful, which keeps the audience engaged till the end.
The camerawork by Avik Mukhopadhyay is clean and eye-pleasing. The background score by Clinton Cerejo adds the right amount of haunt to Badla.
Amitabh Bachchan has sung a rap song “Aukaat”. It is quite good and appears in the opening credits of the film.
The film also stars Antonio Aakeel playing the character of Sunny Singh Toor.
Badla has met with critical praise from nearly all critics. As per the reactions to the film, the audience has also applauded the film.
Whodunits are rare in Bollywood. If you are tired of the staple diet of comedy, romance, or family drama Hindi films, then make it a point to watch Badla.