The censor slate for Sriram Raghavan’s film carries the title “Badlapur: Don’t Miss the Beginning". It’s strange to include an instruction to the audience as part of a movie’s title. But 134 minutes later, you realize that the first 10 minutes are indeed the most electric and set up the rest of the proceedings.

Raghu (Varun Dhawan) is an upwardly mobile advertising executive, happy with his wife (Yami Gautam) and young son. His world is shattered when bank robbers kidnap his family and kill them during the getaway. Raghu now has just one agenda: revenge.

Liak (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is caught for the crime and, in spite of repeatedly claiming that it was his partner (Vinay Pathak) who shot the woman and the child, he is incarcerated for 20 years. A massive time jump sees both Raghu and Liak aged, suffering the vagaries of their circumstances. Raghavan shows Liak’s antics in the jail, including his repeated attempts to escape, juxtaposing these with Raghu’s metamorphosis from a young, sprightly man to a stooping, listless and lonely man who is dragging himself through life, patiently waiting for his chance at vengeance.

By the interval, we have seen the passage of 15 years, and Raghavan brings us to a tantalizing pause. Thereafter, silliness begins to infuse Raghu’s modus operandi. His disrespect and disregard for women is especially confounding, and not unlike Liak’s attitude, whether to a sex worker (Huma Qureshi) or a social worker (Divya Dutta). Gautam, Qureshi, Dutta, Pathak and Radhika Apte, among others, add body to their cameos, while the music by Sachin-Jigar and Anil Mehta’s cinematography augment the atmospherics in this noir thriller which studies the psychology of grief.

Based on a novel by Italian crime writer Massimo Carlotto, Badlapur is as much about transformation as it is about redemption. Dhawan surprises by retaining rage in his eyes and grief in his burdened gait. He tries hard but cannot match up to Siddiqui’s towering talent. Siddiqui is exemplary as the mercurial Liak, feasting on evil and leaning on a fierce survival instinct.

In a final act, we see how the roles are reversed and redemption comes from an unexpected quarter. Raghavan dramatically bookends the film in such a way that you are willing to overlook some of the script’s transitional follies.

Badlapur released in theatres on Friday.

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