Badlapur: Movie Review; Director: Sriram Raghavan; Cast: Varun Dhawan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Yami Gautam, Huma Qureshi, Divya Datta, Radhika Apte, Vinay Pathak
In the slow-burning Badlapur, both the opening scene and the climax catch the audience unawares. They are the film’s high points.
The rest of the film may not be quite as unmissable, but director and co-writer Sriram Raghavan packs enough meat into his stylish, unconventional neo-noir thriller to ensure that it stays on track for the most part.
The screenplay by Raghavan and Arijit Biswas pushes Badlapur beyond the familiar boundaries of the genre by placing the drama within a moral compass that is anything but formulaic.
Take the opinion poll, tell us what you think:
A young adman Raghu (Varun Dhawan) loses his bearings when his wife (Yami Gautam) and son are killed by two bank robbers on a Pune street.
One of the criminals gets away, but the other, Liak Mohammad (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), is caught and convicted although he insists that it was his accomplice who pulled the trigger on Raghu’s wife.
The distraught Raghu quits his job, moves to a small town called Badlapur, and buckles down to the mission to avenge his wife and son’s death.
Badlapur is, on the face of it, about senseless tragedy, all-consuming anger and the fierce desire for vendetta, but it is also about forgiveness, second chances and redemption.
Take another opinion poll, tell us what you think:
Where the film tends to go wrong is in the portrayal of the women that are caught in the fight between the brooding protagonist and the wily criminal.
Apart from the woman who is shot point blank in the opening sequence, Badlapur has four other women over whom both the hero and the villain ride roughshod with impunity.
Liak’s mother (Pratima Kannan), a dancing girl (Huma Qureshi), a social worker (Divya Datta) and a woman who runs a Pune restaurant (Radhika Apte).
All of them are scorned, pushed around and humiliated at will. Unless this approach is meant to signify the amoral depths that men are capable of sinking to when pushed to a corner, it can only be construed as unhealthily sexist.
But audiences that are willing to take the misogyny of Badlapur in their stride might find it riveting enough as a thriller.
The film should be of special interest for all the Varun Dhawan fans out there. The young actor ventures out of his comfort zone and dons the garb of a grim and gloomy revenge-seeker.
He does a fair job, but when he is up against Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who articulates a range of subtle emotions with great economy of means, he is hard-pressed to retain his consistency.
Badlapur has a competent supporting cast although most of the actors are seen on the screen for an average of two-and-a-half scenes each.
Huma Qureshi gets the meatiest of the secondary roles and, as always, makes the most of the opportunity.