Badlapur: Decoding the darkness within

Badlapur   | Photo Credit: 21dmc badlapur

Revenge as the driving force of the story is not new to Hindi cinema. But from Zanjeer to Ghajini, the writer and director often create a moral cushion for the hero to strike back. And we don’t mind the mayhem that ensues, at least within those two hours. As if it is the aakhri raasta! What if the avenger is bereft of his most potent weapon, or connection with the audience, midway?

Sriram Raghavan, who has been playing with noir ( Ek Thi Hasina, Johnny Gaddar) in Indian conditions, has come up with yet another absorbing journey from black and white to grey alleys in human psyche as the title becomes a homonym with one meaning punning on the other. The good thing is Raghavan doesn’t blink on establishing either side of the moral divide creating a complex tapestry for the audience to manoeuvre.

It is about Raghu (Varun Dhawan), an advertising executive, whose happy world gets ripped apart when his adorable wife (Yami Gautam) and kid get killed in a robbery. When the police catch one of the robbers, Laiq (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), he blames his missing partner for the murders and manages to convince the jury that he was also used in the robbery. He is sentenced to 20 years behind bars. Raghu, who could not come to terms with the loss, doesn’t buy his alibi and seeks revenge and bides his time. After 15 years he gets an opening.

Having bit dust at the box office even after making a ‘safe’ film like Agent Vinod, Raghavan goes all out, even a step beyond Johnny Gaddar, as his protagonist uses sex as a weapon of revenge sending the moral compass into a tizzy. It shifts the film into the adult territory but only to ask some mature questions about the shapes and sounds that violence can take.

As his means become increasingly questionable the thriller turns out to be a rollercoaster ride where the mind and heart switch sides like a pendulum. After establishing the traumatic void in great detail that sudden and brutal death of the loved ones create around you, Raghavan gradually makes us revisit established definitions of hero and villain. What the supposed villain did was in a moment of madness but what our hero is going to achieve is a cold blooded murder.

Genre: Neo noir/ Crime thriller
Director: Sriram Raghavan
Cast: Varun Dhawan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Yami Gautam, Huma Qureshi, Vinay Pathak, Radhika Apte, Kumud Mishra

As we grapple with the choices that Raghu makes, Raghavan doesn’t waste time on back stories to establish the motivations of Laiq but gives us enough to dip into the societal pool where such characters germinate. Along the way, Raghavan also hints at something called divine justice. That there is no point in taking everything into one’s hands.

The shift of moral compass is not limited to Raghu and Laiq. In true tradition of noir, every character that Raghu encounters in his search for the killers is twisted here. Be it the hooker Jhimli (Huma Qureshi) or the dedicated social worker Shobha (Divya Dutta) or for that matter the well-meaning police officer (Kumud Mishra), Raghavan spares everybody from straitjacket.

Known for nourishing his ensemble cast with care, here again Raghavan has given each character a chance to engage. The detailing is delicious and so are the references and the quirks that he is known to slip into storytelling. A lady private detective who mops the floor to remain in shape, a dialogue of Sholay that inspires Laiq or the Kaalia like jail, this dark tale has a lining of dry humour as well.

As Laiq, the liar, Nawaz is an absolute delight to watch. It is tough to blow dignity into a character that starts a black hole but Nawaz manages to do it effortlessly. Varun not only undergoes the physical transformation but also the psychological change is palpable. Radhika Apte emerges as a surprise packet.

It is not that all the questions are answered; it is not that whatever Raghu does is convincing. In fact in the second half you start reading Raghu’s mind but Raghavan manages to tide over the loopholes with a tightly-edited, fast-paced narrative that keeps you hooked all the time. Sachin- Jigar’s compositions come in at the right times to help us take the small leaps of faith in this dark space. It is moral ambiguity that is the driving force of Badlapur but Raghvan doesn’t over play the drama card to spoil the fun of a pulpy thriller.

Bottomline: An edge-of-the-seat pulpy entertainer that manages to turn the revenge formula on its head.

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 7:45:45 AM |

Next Story