Sriram Raghavan's Badlapur opens on a very tantalising note with an African proverb: 'The axe forgets, the tree remembers'.
Never mind that his last outing, Agent Vinod (2012), disappeared without a whimper. Badlapur was touted to be Raghavan's comeback film, a revenge drama seldom seen on Indian screens. That this national-award winning filmmaker was also responsible for Ek Hasina Thi, a brilliant thriller starring Urmila Matondkar and Saif Ali Khan, only raised expectations in the days before Badlapur. Does the movie live up to the hype? Here's what Badlapur is all about.
Raghav (Varun Dhawan) plays a cool, loving husband, doing very well for his career in an ad agency: He's proud of his newest campaign for a push-up bra! His happy life is changed for ever when his wife, Yami Gautam, is killed when she is caught in a crossfire between a bunch of bank robbers and the cops.Yes, there are no more pink, fluffy romance or love in the movie, except for Varun's flashback sessions. It's all dark and gory from here.
Raghavan keeps the story in Badlapur simple. It is about Raghav, whose wife and kid are killed for no fault of theirs. One of the accused, Layak (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is caught, but his accomplice, Harman (Vinay Pathak), manages to flee. Layak is sentenced to 20 years' jail imprisonment and it is only fifteen years after the incident that Raghav discovers Harman.
How Raghav avenges the death of the people he loved the most is what Badlapur is all about. There is no suspense here: We know who killed Raghav's wife right at the beginning of the film. What we do not know is how and when will he take his revenge. And his enemies?
The drama builds in the film while we wait for Layak's accomplices to surface. Perhaps, this is where Raghavan's script fails. It maintains a dark tone throughout, but does not quite build the tempo required for a thriller. For a story as simple as this, the revenge and angst do not quite come out as passionately as one would have wished. That Raghav could be accused of being a tad laidback in his modus operandi only takes away from the drama. While he hires a private detective to find out about Layak and discovers that there is girlfriend too in the picture, all he does is force himself on the woman -- Jhumli (Huma Qureshi), a prostitue! Even the scene where Raghav reveals his identity and scares Jhumli, lacks the force that a man avenging his wife's death on the murderer's girlfriend should wield.
Badlapur's story fizzles out a bit in the second half when the revenge saga turns into a moral dictat. Layak simply walks into a police station and confesses to have committed all the murders that Raghav did. And no, that is not even to punish Raghav with the guilt -- Layak's conscience has suddenly woken up with a death wish (he is dying of stomach cancer) of giving the protagonist 'a second chance'!
The performances, nonetheless, are amazing. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is a wasted, poor man who has no qualms of being a baddie, and he's brilliant. While Yami Gautam does not have too much of screenspace, Divya Dutta (an activist working for rehabilitation of prisoners), Ashwini Kalsekar (private detective) and Radhika Apte (Harman's wife) look convincing in their roles. Kumud Mishra (police officer) and Pratima Kanana (Nawaz's mother), too are impressive in their roles.
Badlapur is, without doubt, Varun Dhawan's best till date. Whether it is crying over the sudden deaths or romancing invisible Yami or the cold-blooded murders, his expressions never fail to scare the audience. In just fifteen minutes of film's opening, Varun transforms from the young Student of The Year to a mature, well-trained actor.
If you are a fan of Raghavan, Badlapur could possibly disappoint you. The brilliant performances and gripping narrative, nonetheless, will keep you hooked. Watch it for Nawazuddin and Varun Dhawan, if nothing else. Certainly worth your time and money.
(Interact with the author @Twitter/SwetaKaushal)
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