Sujoy Ghosh’s ‘Badla’ (2019) Review

Truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. 

This statement constitutes a small but vital part of what is known as the Sworn Testimony in legal parlances. When somebody says this under oath, it means that they’re obliged to say the truth and nothing else. But that doesn’t mean what comes out is the ultimate truth. Truth can be twisted, fabricated yet it has its own way of being revealed in one of the most interesting ways. Sujoy Ghosh’s ‘Badla’, an official remake of the Spanish thriller ‘Contratiempo’, also known as ‘The Invisible Guest’ has an alleged murderer and her lawyer engaging in a conversation across the table, to find the minutest of detail of the crime. The film works, purely due to its Rashomon-esque take on the subject, that allows various vantage points about the incident. And of course, Amitabh Bachchan.

The movie begins as the audience is introduced to Naina Sethi, a successful businesswoman accused of the murder of her paramour. Badal Gupta, a famous lawyer meets her as part of witness preparation. Badal wants to know the absolute truth about the incident which Naina duly details out. But as the movie progresses, layers over layers are peeled off as both Naina and Badal test each other with as many versions of what they call their ‘truth’. It becomes important to discard one truth against the other, as both stand their ground, claiming the veracity of their facts. And as Badal puts it, it’s foolish to know the truth, without knowing what separates fact from fiction. 

To give credit where it’s due, the subject material is pretty solid, to begin with. Hindi cinema has always been accused of playing too safe when it comes to suspense and thriller. Barring few, there have not been many films who have raised the bar in this genre. So ‘Badla’ comes as a fresh breath of air. Director Sujoy Ghosh, who has also been credited for the adapted screenplay, remains faithful to the original story, only switching the gender of the pivotal characters. Keeping the premise at a single place i.e. the table where the conversation occurs between the two, the narrative goes back and forth to let the audience know what had happened or rather, what the characters want the audience to know. It’s smart, slick and goes at a breakneck speed thanks to some super editing by Monisha R Baldawa. Sujoy and Raj Vasant team up for the dialogues and when it’s Mr Bachchan helming the reins, it often turns out to be the writer’s delight. Allegories and metaphors from Mahabharata are used multiple times and this is what makes the adapted script so unique compared to its source material. 

When it comes to acting, Amitabh Bachchan is the last word. This year is his career’s fiftieth and it’s like the great man is a walking textbook of acting himself. Any budding actors, who want to learn from the best, watch him in ‘Badla’. The pauses, the nuances and the delivery – these traits are so impeccable in his work. A tremendous screen presence adds volumes to it. Taapsee Pannu, fresh from her breakout year of work, such as  ‘Manmarziyaan’ and ‘Mulk’, adds another feather to her cap, as she dabbles in the grey shades. We’ve finally found a female actor who’s unafraid to take the leap of faith. Amrita Singh, the third cog of this wheel, does her best work in years. Frankly, the screen misses her electrifying performances like this one. Manav Kaul appears in a blink and miss role. One does feel bad for this actor as he’s one of the best actors we’ve got and could’ve switched the roles with Tony Luke and we would’ve gotten a cracker of a leading cast.

Do watch ‘Badla’. It’s an engrossing whodunit and one of Mr Bachchan’s finest work in years. 

The Cinemawala Rating: 3.5/5

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