As promised, Kulture Didi is back this week with her take on another Bollywood film. This week she dishes on Sujoy Ghosh’s crime thriller Badla starring Amitabh Bachchan, Amrita Singh, Taapsee Pannu, and Manav Kaul in key roles.
After Kahaani 2 in 2016, Ghosh is back with yet another mystery thriller adapted from the 2017 Spanish film Contratiempo (The Invisible Guest). Shot mostly inside the premises of a single room, much like the classic courtroom drama, Twelve Angry Men, the film uses the Rashomon effect to explore what really went down in the past through flashbacks.
The film has certain overarching, thematic similarities with Ghosh’s other works. There are the character who keep you guessing about their motivations till the very end, criminals who think they can outsmart everyone, and mostly the subtle gender politics. In his adapted screenplay, The Invisible Guest’s male protagonist becomes an overachieving young female business mogul in the making. She also happens to be a mother, a point that is driven home time and time again, with various shots of Taapsee’s Naina reminiscing about the time spent with her daughter in the flashbacks.
Ghosh has this tendency to bring in a mother’s vulnerability to the fore in portraying complex female characters with shades of sometimes gray and sometimes pure gumption. It manages to break down perceptions about women, especially mothers, who are often viewed in binaries – they can either be natural nurturers or be completely evil gargoyles (the step mother archetype in Hindi films of yore, basically). Ghosh manages to break these stereotypes with Taapsee’s Naina as well as Amrita Singh’s Rani, a grieving mother with a knack for fixing cars and helping strangers.
Avik Mukhopadhyay’s cinematography paints the screen with the same kind of bluesy bleakness that Ghosh’s tragic mystery of double murders requires. Amaal Mallik, Anupam Roy, and Clinton Cerejo’s music aids in building the mood, but at a two-and-a-half-hours bloated screen time, the film feels sleepy in parts. Raj Vasant’s dialogues that tend to lean back on cliches don’t help either.
Badla is a classic whodunnit story that had the potential to keep audiences hooked to their seats till the very end. Ghosh manages to play with the many faces of truth and gender politics like a master but eventually it all boils down to the predictability of the story, which is too glaring to ignore. Perhaps, Captain Marvel would be a better option this Women’s Day weekend.
To know more about what Kulture Didi had to say about Badla watch the video.