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Friday, September 22, 2023

The Girl On The Train Review: Familiar Tracks, Different Stations

After much anticipation, Ribhu Dasgupta’s The Girl On The Train has released on Netflix.

It is the Hindi adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ 2015 bestseller and a 2016 Hollywood version starring Emily Blunt and directed by Tate Taylor.

Mira Kapoor (Parineeti Chopra), once a successful lawyer – now divorced and an alcoholic.

She regularly blacks out after binge drinking and has trouble remembering recent events when she is sober.

Being constantly accused of frequently harassing her ex-husband (Avinash Tiwary) and due to her current state, longer has a job and seems to be finding it difficult to handle her addiction.

During her commute, Mira sees a couple every day and they seem to have a perfect life – an ideal life that she once had or could have had.

When Nusrat (Aditi Rao Hydari), the girl Mira watches every day goes missing, she becomes the key suspect.

So why would Mira want Nusrat gone? That forms the crux of the film.

Firstly, I will be analysing this film as a standalone movie, rather than as a ‘remake’. I will be reflecting on to what extent the movie is engaging… Or not.

The first part of TGOTT takes a substantial time to get going. It comes across as disjointed and rough.

I feel the movie lacks smoothness, crispness and seems jumbled. The pace, especially in the first-half, is quite slow.

Having said that, as the film progresses, curiosity slowly piques in and whilst the characters may not be as engaging, I feel intrigued as to what would happen next.

Scenes of Mira peaking out of the train or running into the forest definitely create a sense of ambiguity and bleakness. 

As such, the second half acts as a major redeeming factor here and just a word of caution, nothing is what it seems.

Whilst viewers who have seen the original might be able to determine the storyline, makers consciously have tried to adapt the film in a unique manner.

There are instances that do take the viewer by surprise and it works, not only with Indian audiences but also international ones, especially in Britain.

One thing that I did quite enjoy though, is the way, Ribhu Dasgupta customises the film’s template to a British-Indian style and it’s done decently.

Usually, whenever I watch a Hindi film shot in the UK, it is overtly romanticised just to fulfil the diaspora’s ‘escapism’ desire.

However, here we see authentic locations being referenced and shot in, rather than just the conventional tourist locations.

More importantly, we get to see British actors being utilised as key characters to progress the narrative, rather than as ‘extras’ or ‘props’.

A special mention goes to Nisha Aaliya, Vishakh Vadgama, Leyton Benta, Rajiv Chabria and Monisha Hassen, to name a few, who have done well in substantial and respective roles.

It’s great that we finally have such Bollywood and directors that honour the local talent here and is a step towards progressive acceptance.

Speaking of the cast, Parineeti Chopra puts her best foot forward in the film and that endeavour is very clear. She tries to give it her best and I can appreciate that effort.

The good thing about her performance is she downplays Mira Kapoor. She does not go overboard with her expressions or demeanours of playing an obsessive alcoholic.

I’ve always seen that potential in Chopra and it’s reassuring to know that she lives up to that expectation.

But perhaps a more detailed writing could’ve made me resonate and empathise with her even more.

Avinash Tiwary is a treat to watch. Since Laila Majnu, we get to see him in a meaty role and boy, he does not disappoint.

In fact, Tiwary portrays such variation as an actor that going forward, we will be able to see him in more diverse work – which he certainly deserves. 

Kirti Kulhari has been on a winning spree since Criminal Justice and once again, delivers a fabulous performance. Her ease and calmness as a determined British-Punjabi cop is good.

Though it must be cleared that, British cops don’t go round slapping the criminals. They’re a lot smarter than that!

Aditi Rao Hydari is beautiful. She brightens the screen with her presence and while screen time is limited, she does decently, as Aditi always does.

On the whole, The Girl On The Train might not be a perfect film, nor is it a visual aesthetic. In fact, it’s far from it.

Having said that, the film is not a damp squib and maintains our interest in the story, even if one is familiar with the original Hollywood film.

Ribhu Dasgupta customises this to a British-Indian setting and this attempt works, to an extent. 

More importantly, Parineeti Chopra gives an earnest performance and for this, she certainly is on the right track to develop and excel as an actor. An extra star for her and the cast’s effort.

⭐⭐⭐ (3/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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