Badla is not the sort of movie that would keep you on the edge of the seat that it intends to.
Arjun (Tony Luke) frantically washes off the blood from his hand and comes out of the washroom. He takes a close look at the framed photos on the wall. One of the photos displays the poster of arguably the greatest drama of all time – Sydney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men. When it comes to figuring out the best movies that form conjectures on how crime would have taken place, 12 Angry Men sits right on top of my list. I have no idea if this photo was deliberately included by Director Sujoy Ghosh. But you do get a flavour of that iconic film in Ghosh’s latest venture.
Thankfully I did not watch Contratiempo / The Invisible Guest (Badla is a remake of this film). Badla is a sort of a movie where you want to be knowing nothing about the story as it would be extremely difficult to get through this film if you have already seen the original. But even without knowing the significant twists and turns in the plot, I had already predicted the culprit in the very beginning.
“Justice is blind”, utters Badal Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan is terrific in this character as he has been for decades). He, further, says in one of the scenes, “jo saabit ho sake vahi sach hai” (Truth is what can be proved). He has been hired as the attorney for defending the case of murder. Naina Sethi (Taapsee Pannu renders a magnificent performance for this role which emulates that of Amitabh Bachchan), who claims to have been framed as the accused in this murder, recounts what ‘exactly’ transpired that led to the killing of the son of Rani (Amrita Singh) and Nirmal (Tanveer Ghani) and also that of Naina’s boyfriend Arjun. Badla, which means revenge, involves how Naina builds a story from her vantage point to prove her innocence and how she intends to make everyone believe that framing her as the accused was an act of revenge.
Badla does not portray an intricate story. Primarily it only focuses on two incidents. This became problematic as the narrative continuously harks back to the same set of events and even as little things get revealed every time those same set of events are revisited, they did not really contain any major surprise element. The engrossing interrogation that ensues early on when Badal Gupta, with a constant smile on his face, asks Naina to tell nothing but the truth, acts as a great premise. But it is bogged down by the predictability. But even though I had already prefixed my mind on who the real culprit is, the writing of the film is so well-crafted that accompanies different conjectures, as Badal Gupta surmises what might have happened on the basis of Naina’s account, it did make me wonder if I am right regarding my prediction.
I found the second half of the movie to be more impressive, especially towards the end, as Badal Gupta dives deeper into the “baarikiyaan” (details) of the story narrated by Naina. Amidst the seriousness during the conversation between Badal and Naina, there were little things that might go unnoticed, as they were not the point of focus, but were a great addition (Initially Badal keeps referring Naina, who is his client, by “you”. When he calls her by her name for the first time during the conversation, he justifies that his daughter is of the same age as Naina that made him call so. In another instance, while seriously discussing with her, he adroitly says that he won’t mind a cup of coffee). Badla is not a bad movie. But it is just not the sort of movie that would keep you on the edge of the seat that it intends to.