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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Badla Movie Review: When Lies Are Spun in a Web of Truths

Badla is a thriller/murder mystery which has been adapted from the Spanish film The Invisible Guest.

Entrepreneur Naina Sethi (Taapsee Pannu) finds herself in a locked hotel room next to the body of her dead lover (Tony Luke).

She hires a prestigious lawyer Badal Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan) to defend her and over one evening, they work together to find out what actually happened.

Reuniting the dynamic Pink duo of Taapsee and Amitabh, the Sujoy Ghosh nail-biting thriller is produced by Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment.

So, given that four supremely talented names are attached to a big Bollywood film like Badla, the expectations are bound to raise the expectations.

Sujoy Ghosh: The Genius Filmmaker

Within the first few minutes the camera rolls, our attention is grabbed.

The positioning of the camera to the sharp editing, Sujoy Ghosh knows EXACTLY what will give the audience a visceral feel.

Due to Ghosh’s directorial prowess, it engages the viewer within the conversations between Badal and Naina.

As such, the viewer feels as though they are a third person present in the room where the duo is.

When there is a continuous dialogue exchange between two characters, it can easily get dreary and tedious.

However, through convoluted writing, the spectator’s curiosity is piqued.

Sujoy maintains a very consistent atmosphere.

At no point does the intensity drop nor do we feel bored.

In fact, the way he displays the power-play between Badal and Naina through the body language/levels is remarkable.

Due to Ghosh’s ability to thrill the audience, it can only be right to call him the Hitchcock of Bollywood.

Speaking of atmosphere, the setting of Scotland is a perfect choice as this exudes an Agatha Christie vibe and subsequently, enhances the enigma.

The Mind-Bending Narrative

I’ve not seen The Invisible Guest, however, critics who have seen it claim that the storyline of this film is pretty much similar.

However, after seeing the film for what it is, Badla works for me.

Hindi cinema has exhibited several thrillers/murder mysteries with alternate narratives like Drishyam and Ittefaq. 

But the beauty about Badla is that so many truths and lies are thrown at the viewer and it makes us really wonder what the truth (or lie) is

Even though the stories are repeatedly churned, we never once feel fed up and instead, we feel intrigued to know what will be said next.

It is interesting how pretty much all the characters encompass a grey shade… There are no clear/obvious protagonists and antagonists.

Sujoy Ghosh’s movies remind me of The Twilight Zone this is because his movies often revolve around ordinary characters caught up in bizarre and surreal circumstances.

Another frequent trope in Ghosh’s direction usually includes the referencing of the Mahabharat… Remember Satyaki in Kahaani?

Well, the Mahabharat talk comes up on several occasions in Badla and this is incorporated well into the narrative.

Generally, the dialogue: “Kya main wahi che (6) dekh Raha hoon jo tumne Mujhe dikhaya, ya woh Nau (9) jo Mujhe dekhna chahiye tha?” summarises the main crux of the movie.

Brilliant Performances

Sujoy’s terrific work as a filmmaker and vision is executed well by the actors.

Amitabh Bachchan oozes Wazir vibes through his performance as Badal Gupta.

It is a known fact that Mr Bachchan is a legend and he proves it yet again through his solid dialogue delivery and screen presence.

The film is quite iconic for Taapsee Pannu as we see her exhibiting certain shades which we had never seen before.

As an actor, Taapsee underplays her emotions and body languages. This works a lot for her character Naina Sethi.

Through the on-screen interaction between Amitabh and Taapsee, it becomes quite clear that there is a good synergy between both actors.

Amrita Singh plays Rani Kaur, a Punjabi mother who is searching for answers and she delivers another feisty performance.

In fact, she is dynamite. Amrita also displays several shades to her character and she executes her role very well.

Malayalam actor Tony Luke makes his Bollywood debut. He plays the role of Taapsee’s boyfriend who gets killed (as the main plot outlines). 

It is apparent that language is a slight barrier, but despite that Tony, enacts his part well.

Manav Kaul is decent in a special appearance. 

What’s Wrong?

There are many positive factors about Badla and it does keep the audience on edge. 

However, for me, the ending is underwhelming. It was unexpected, but for the wrong reasons.

Also, it is essential that one maintains patience… Not because of the film’s pace, but due to the number of stories that are thrown that is thrown at the viewer.

As such, one can never really accept what the ‘truth’ is, even after the credits roll. 

Overall, though, Badla is a well-crafted thriller which leaves the audience guessing right till the end.

It is amongst those few films which really blur the lines between truth and lie, in a subtle and smart way.

Post Kahaani, this is undoubtedly Sujoy Ghosh’s best work and we recommend you give it a watch!

⭐⭐⭐.5 (3.5/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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