Badla Review - A Smartly Reworked Revenge Tale
Official remakes/adaptations are fast becoming an attractive option for all the people concerned- producers, directors, writers and actors. It becomes easy to get a buy in from the concerned people as there is already a well-defined reference point, be it both from a creative as well as business standpoint. Also seeing the track record of what’s working and what’s not, the makers now stand a better chance of packaging their versions and trying to ensure that they do not support a misfire. When I first heard of Sujoy Ghosh’s Badla, I felt happy to hear the names associated with it, Amitabh Bachchan, Taapsee Pannu and Shah Rukh Khan (as the producer). Though I had not seen the original Spanish film, Oriol Paulo’s The Invisible Guest (2017) on which Badla was to be based, I felt that given the names involved, there has to be a solid reason for going ahead with such a venture.
Around 15-20 minutes into the film it’s easy to understand why the film has been attempted in the first place. But more of that later, let’s first look at what Badla is all about (though if you’ve seen the promos you already know what to expect). Naina Sethi (Taapsee Pannu) is a successful U.K based businesswoman, her life revolving around her company and her small family comprising of her husband and daughter. But her peaceful existence comes crumbling down all of a sudden as she’s arrested for the murder of her lover Arjun Joseph (Tony Luke). Once she’s out on bail her lawyer Jimmy Punjabi (Manav Kaul) enlists the support of acclaimed lawyer Badal Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan) to tackle the case and prove Naina’s innocence. It is then left to Badal to piece out the truth from Naina, in an attempt to win the case; in the process the whole story is unveiled back and forth through a series of flashbacks.
Essentially Sujoy Ghosh has not tampered with the basic structure and screenplay of the original film, deciding to let the remake work on its own with just the swap of genders over here. Hence the role reversal is seen in case of both the accused and the lawyer. For someone like me who had not seen the Spanish original before watching Badla there’s a lot going in favour of a taut and engaging thriller. Starting off as a slow burner, the narrative takes some time to get you hooked to it but soon it does manage to pull you in, after which it’s a smooth journey. Sujoy Ghosh ensures that the film remains crisp with a run time of exactly 2 hours and the dialogues by Raj Vasant, with some heavy Mahabharat referencing thrown in too, keep the audience tied up despite most of the conversation being just between the two main characters, Naina and Badal.
Shot mostly in and around Glasgow during the winter, the characteristic cold and darkness seen during the season add a lot of depth and gloominess that enriches the tale subtly. Avik Mukhopadhyay’s cinematography rises to the occasion, supporting Sujoy cleverly on this front. The concerns with the film if at all are minor, like why do we conveniently have so many Indians seen in Glasgow (typical problem with most Indian films based abroad) or isn’t the unravelling of the puzzle turn out to be a little too convenient. But leaving these aside Badla does not make you sweat it out during the viewing and credit for that also goes to the actors involved. Of the supporting cast Manav Kaul actually does not get much scope while Tony Luke, who’s done a few Malayalam films of late, makes a good fit as Arjun. It’s so refreshing to see Amrita Singh playing Rani Kaur with utmost conviction and grace; we need to see her more often on the big screen.
Taapsee Pannu is a delight to watch, she pulls off the slightly complex character of Naina with a lot of maturity and confidence. Over the duration of two hours we see her character go through so many dimensions and she makes us feel that Sujoy’s choice of going in for a gender reversal with the lead roles makes a lot of sense. As for Amitabh Bachchan I have to say that he makes for a good fit as Badal Gupta who is pitted against that of Naina. However it’s not something that makes him stretch himself, this is something that he would never, ever go wrong with. Ultimately Badla is a film that works especially if one is fond of thrillers and both Sujoy and SRK can be happy of the outcome that the film will be witnessing in all the ways possible.
Badla is a well-made thriller by Sujoy Ghosh where he doesn’t tamper much with the original and is able to keep the audience guessing.