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Love, Lies and Suspense

Saturday, March 09, 2019
By Deepa Gahlot

Badla
Director:
Sujoy Ghosh
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Taapsee Pannu, Amrita Singh, Tony Luke and others
Rating: * * *

For Sujoy Ghose, whose biggest hit so far has been Kahaani, the Spanish film The Invisible Guest (Oriol Paulo, 2016), must have been an attractive project to remake. It is a suspense film with a nicely-timed twists and multiple versions of the truth, quite like Kahaani, but minus the pace and action.

Mostly set in one room, it does take breathers outdoors, but the structure is a stagey, with brisk lines being exchanged, the expression in the actor’s eyes, conveying fire and ice.

Ghosh has swapped genders, the accused in the original film was a man, and the female lawyer has been changed to a man. It tilts the audience response a bit—some people are more judgmental about ‘rich-bitch’ kind of characters in movies.

Naina Sethi (Taapsee Pannu), is a UK-based (where, of course, everyone speaks Hindi!) married businesswoman, whose car meets with an accident that kills a young man, when she is with her lover Arjun (Tony Luke). There is hasty and seemingly fool-proof cover-up, and Naina thinks she has gotten away, till she gets a blackmail call. When she and Arjun reach the hotel room, where they have been summoned, Arjun is killed and Naina is the obvious suspect, since she was the only one present in a locked room. She claims she is innocent, and a pricey lawyer, Badal Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan) arrives at her apartment to help get her statement in order.

Gupta claims never to have lost a case in forty years, and is also solid with his ‘homework.’ He digs out the accident that Naina was trying to hide, and is convinced the two incidents are related. He pulls the truth out of Naina, as she tries to gives him proof of her innocence,

The film that is mostly talk, conflicting points of view, lies, deceit and some bombast, rests on the power of performances. For Amitabh Bachchan, as the Mahabharat-quoting senior, the role was cake-walk. Taapsee Pannu, who has to project fear, coldness and arrogance, has a slightly more complex role, and through most of the film, she is in a gloomy grey environs, dressed in sombre colours and without make-up. The two are, however, upstaged by Amrita Singh in a strong and sympathetic role.

Even those who have not seen the Spanish film will not be surprised much, there is a fair amount of foreshadowing, and on thinking about it later, some unconvincing parts. It’s a watchable film, but not of an unmissable calibre.

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