Film Review: ‘Badla’ sinks in a quagmire of plot imperfections

Film Review: ‘Badla’ sinks in a quagmire of plot imperfections
A still from Bollywood flick ‘Badla.’ YouTube
Updated 13 March 2019

Film Review: ‘Badla’ sinks in a quagmire of plot imperfections

Film Review: ‘Badla’ sinks in a quagmire of plot imperfections

CHENNAI: After a few flops, Sujoy Ghosh directed two engaging pieces of work — “Kahaani” in 2012 and “Kahaani 2” in 2016. His genre has been thrillers, and he sticks to it in his latest outing in Scotland, set mostly in Glasgow.

Titled “Badla” or “Revenge,” this is a near-faithful adaptation of the 2016-17 Spanish murder-mystery, “Contratiempo,” or “The Invisible Guest,” by Oriol Paulo, now streaming on Netflix.

Badla is a typical whodunnit with a couple of murders and a pretty suspect, Naina Sethi, played by Taapsee Pannu, who pairs with Amitabh Bachchan once again (as they did in “Pink”). 

Like in “Pink,” Bachchan is a lawyer in “Badla.” As Badal Gupta, he is tasked with defending Naina, whose  fling outside her happy marriage has gone horribly wrong. She finds herself in a hotel room with her lover, Arjun (Tony Luke), killed. She is arrested for murder, but gets out on bail with the help of her close lawyer friend, Jimmy Punjabi (Manav Kaul). Woven into this sticky situation are two more characters, an elderly couple — Nirmal (Tanveer Ghani) and Rani (Amrita Singh) — whose son goes missing, and there appears to be a link between this disappearance and Arjun’s death.

“Badla” looks ethereal, with cinematographer Avik Mukhopadhyay capturing Scotland in all its splendour — its misty mornings adding to the air of mystery. But unfortunately, these picture-postcard images serve as mere embellishments to a plot and performance that are disappointing. Bachchan brings little novelty to his role. As for Pannu, she fails to get her act together as a crime suspect whose position as a celebrated businesswoman and as a mother as well as a wife is in peril. Not much of an effort appears to have gone into developing these characters.

And the plot itself has far too many holes and convenient coincidences. Of course, Ghosh would say that he merely followed the Spanish original. But what stopped him from reworking the story and the script to give us a believable narrative?