Film Review: ‘Badla’ is a passable whodunit

  • Sujoy Ghosh’s film is an adaptation of Spanish thriller Contratiempo
  • Amitabh Bachchan is commanding in the lead role  

Director Sujoy Ghosh takes charge of the Hindi language adaptation of Oriol Paulo’s 2016 Spanish crime thriller Contratiempo (“The Invisible Guest"), and works in enough changes to smoothly localise Badla. A revenge story with a murder mystery at its core, the film follows a three-hour conversation between Badal Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan), the lawyer entrusted with defending murder accused Naina Sethi (Taapsee Pannu).

Sethi is a successful and astute businesswoman who is under house arrest pending the court case. Gupta comes with the reputation of having a hundred percent success rate with his cases. He’s sharp and unflappable, just like his client, who is adamant about her innocence.

The film runs at a crisp 120 minutes during which Naina recounts the events that lead up to the murder of her lover, Arjun (Tony Luke), in a hotel room. As the only other occupant of the room, Naina is the prime suspect.

As much as the conversation plays out like a poker game, it’s also a battle of wits and a test of reliability between Badal and Naina. Clinton Cerejo’s score, Avik Mukhopadhyay’s cinematography, Monisha Baldawa’s editing and Scottish locations coalesce as the guessing game unfolds. Will Naina beat the odds? Will Badal find a loophole? If not Naina, then who killed Arjun? Eventually it comes down to this – did you spot the sleight of hand?

Ghosh, who achieved success with a similar genre in Kahaani (2012), maintains control of the twists and turns. With the assistance of dialogue writer Raj Vasant, they work in a few Mahabharata references to present notions of revenge and forgiveness.

Bachchan is commanding as always but Pannu earns neither sympathy nor surprise, whereas Amrita Singh achieves both in her decisive role. If revenge is a dish best served cold, this one isn’t icy enough.

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