When the director who gave us taut thrillers like ‘Ek Hasina Thi’ and ‘Johnny Gaddaar’ (mis)directed spy flick ‘Agent Vinod’, I for one understood why it didn’t work- Director Sriram Raghavan was given too much to do and too much to spend and that clearly isn’t his forte. He is back with this week’s neo-noir vengeance saga ‘Badlapur’. They say Revenge is the purest emotion; the whole idea of which is twisted here as the hero and villain are both grey and their lines blur.
A daylight bank robbery goes wrong in Pune when a lady (Yami Gautam) and her son are killed by the thugs. Raghu (Varun Dhawan) is shocked and traumatized when he sees his dear wife and son dead in the hospital. One of the robbers Harman (Vinay Pathak) escapes with the money; the other Laik (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is sentenced to twenty years imprisonment. He refuses to identify his partner thinking he will break free one day soon and take his share. Unfortunately, it is only after fifteen years that it happens when Raghu bails him out to know who the other guy was; Laik himself won’t be living for more than a year now as he is diagnosed with stomach cancer. If Laik was a prisoner for fifteen years, Raghu wasn’t much different as a recluse in small town Badlapur. As the crime drama unfolds, we realize a bad guy can have a heart while someone good can get brutal due to circumstances.
What sets ‘Badlapur’ apart from other movies of its genre is the unpredictability that even his ‘Johnny Gaddaar’ had. It is a dark movie with dollops of dark humour and though it is not really for the faint-hearted, violence is never over-used. However, the way Raghu treats women while seeking revenge has a lot to do with misogyny and that may not come across as a pleasant watch for women. So… Raghu sleeps with Laik’s call-girl sweetheart (Huma Qureshi), does it again with a NGO activist (Divya Dutta) using her for his motive and gets Harman’s wife (Radhika Apte) stripped. If you can ignore this, ‘Badlapur’ is a compelling watch; it rarely drags and it doesn’t at all disappoint. Though the tagline asks viewers not to miss the beginning, the climax is not to be missed as well. Raghavan makes a smart move as a director by keeping it unconventional enough for you to ponder who was the better guy among the protagonist and the antagonist- the one who turns into a cold-blooded revenge-thirsty murderer after losing his sanity in a way or the one who realizes his sin a little late in the day but it’s too late to repent. There aren’t many songs but ‘Jee Karda’ (Music by Sachin-Jigar) is quite foot-tapping.
Varun Dhawan’s choice to experiment hits the right note and he delivers a performance worth praise. His contemporaries have a reason to watch out for this talented bundle of energy; he plays a young happy-go-lucky guy who is shattered and changed to a cold ruthless murderer with such ease that you are bound to sit up and take notice. However, even that pales to an extent since a powerhouse of talent Nawazuddin Siddiqui has as much screen time as the movie’s hero. He is brilliant yet again and brings to his character a certain kind of empathy even if he is so wrong. ‘Badlapur’ is as much his film as it belongs to Varun. Yami Gautam, Huma Qureshi, Radhika Apte, Vinay Pathak, Divya Dutta- all of them are in supporting roles and each fantastic in the little they are in.
Watch it or not: Yes; if you are looking for an unconventional crime drama.
At the Box Office: It will open average and do quite well in multiplexes in urban centers. Releasing a movie during Cricket World Cup isn’t really a great idea and ‘Badlapur’ will suffer losses due to this as well. Good reviews will lead to a strict average show at the BO.