Badla Movie Review: Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu Talk Their Way Through This Highly Immersive Thriller With a Killer Twist!
Badla Movie Review (Photo Credits: Red Chillies Entertainment)

While watching Badla, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu in the lead, I wondered why director Sujoy Ghosh never made it a part of his Kahaani franchise. After all, the entire peg of the film depends on a story that a character tells another and how the listener brings out the obvious inconsistencies in the story, and give it his own spin. Not to mention, the word 'kahaani' might have been uttered nearly a dozen times. Perhaps there might be copyright issues, but Kahaani 3 would have made a much better title for this riveting thriller than the very obviously sounding BadlaBadla Box Office Prediction: Will Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu Starrer Taste Success at the Ticket Windows?

Badla is about a murder that happened in a hotel room in the  English countryside. The movie begins by showing us that the murderer has already been apprehended and is under house arrest. However, when her new lawyer Badal Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan) arrives at her door-step, Naina Sethi (Taapsee Pannu) claims that she has never killed her lover, Arjun (Tony Luke). In fact, she alleges that someone else was in the room, who attacked her and rendered her unconscious, before proceeding to murder Arjun. Though, the police find no outsider has entered or left the room.

Badal, who has never lost a case, tries to unravel the mystery behind the killing and makes his new client deconstruct what exactly happened in a three-hour debriefing. As they proceed with the confessions, Badal discovers there are more secrets to be unravelled, and that Naina could be hiding something more than she is willing to tell.

I went to watch Badla with a very unfair disadvantage to myself as a viewer. I had seen the original, the Spanish film The Invisible Guest, directed by Oriol Paulo (whose debut directorial, The Body, is also being remade in Bollywood with Rishi Kapoor and Emraan Hashmi), when it made waves in the international circuit after its release.

Badla turns out to be a nearly faithful adaptation of the Spanish film, right from the plot structure, character development to the numerous twists. So if you are like me and have seen the original, the surprises may not exactly work on you. Yes, Ghosh even retained the killer twist of the end, which I was not sure how Badla would pull off. Thankfully, he managed to do so convincingly. Also, I was grateful that I watched the film with a friend, who didn't see The Invisible Guest. Although he was able to guess some of the twists (more on why this happened, later), he was stunned by the final rug-pull. The twist might not be very convincing when it comes to logic, but it will definitely surprise the heck out of you.

So what attracts Badla to the people who have already watched the original? Well, what about watching the incredible Amitabh Bachchan and a completely in-form Taapsee Pannu have their characters get into a game of wits with each other? Amitabh Bachchan's casting as the lawyer brings its own set of advantages and disadvantages. When the legend brings in his amazing histrionics into play, the verbal sparring with Taapsee's character gets a lot of depth. His star-value also brings a particular nuance to a very revelatory scene later in the film. However, thanks to the obvious exposure on his star-persona (the original had downplayed the character a bit), some of the surprises feel guessable. This was something I gauged from the reactions of my friend, and not my own take. Also, at times, I wonder the obvious surprises that Ghosh throws at us is him winking at those who have seen the original.

The gender reversal also works to Badla's advantage. In the original, it was the man that was accused and a woman comes to defend him; a father searches for the truth, while the mother is believed to be catatonic to the events. Here, thanks to their dynamics in PINK, the lawyer-client equation between Big B and Taapsee's characters get a fresh perspective.

Watch The Trailer of Badla here:

As a director, Ghosh has managed to adapt the film into Bollywood commendably within the aesthetics of our cinema. I am not sure if the dominant talkie-talkie portions of the film can attract the crowds, but if you have the patience to see characters talk the truth out of each other, you will enjoy this one. Another thing that worked for Badla are the dialogues (Sujoy Ghosh and Raj Vasant), with its frequent inferences to the Mahabharata. Badla: 5 Spanish Thrillers That We Want to See Being Remade in Bollywood After Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu’s Film.

What slightly disappointed me, though, is that Sujoy could not bring the brilliance we saw in Kahaani into Badla. The Vidya Balan-starrer may have borrowed its best twist from a Hollywood film, but till that scene, there was so much that Ghosh could call his own. Not so much here.

Avik Mukhopadhyay's cinematography beautifully manages to capture the enigma of the snow-capped locales, which itself adds enough intrigue to the ongoing mystery. Monisha Baldawa's editing keeps the runtime focussed on the premise with least distractions. I would also commend the VFX team for Red Chillies for the one terrifically rendered scene near the climax. See the film to understand what I am talking about!

The Performances

Badla delivers yet another stunning Amitabh Bachchan performance. In the beginning, he felt like his usual self. But it is towards the concluding portions, that the legend brings his range of emotions and expressions, especially in that outburst scene. Taapsee, perhaps going through the best phase of her career, effortlessly manages to keep up with her far more experienced co-star. She brilliantly manages to convey the transitional moods of her character, without making it jerky. Even when things do get slow at times, Badla works because of the  kind of powerhouse histrionics these two actors bring to the table.

Amrita Singh as the mother seeking the truth owns every scene she is in, and she is splendid in the sequence where she confronts Naina. Malayalam actor Tony Luke is aptly cast, with his freshness managing to make the revelations around his character work.

Yay!

- Both Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu

- Amrita Singh

- Twisty Narrative

- Ghosh's Faithful Adaptation

- Technical Aspects

Nay!

- Lacks the Brilliance of Kahaani

- The Conversations May Feel Too Convoluted

- The Final Twist, Unexpected, Of Course, May Feel Indigestible to Some

Final Thoughts

If you haven't watched The Invisible Guest, go for Badla to enjoy a very engrossing, immersive suspense drama with a killer twist. If you have watched the original, go for the movie to enjoy the incredible performances of Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu.

Rating:3.5out of 5