Badlapur: 15 years and a hammer

Badlapur

Score: 8.5/10

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Mahatma Gandhi said that. And there isn’t a more perfect example than Badlapur. Sriram Raghavan’s back in form, ladies and gentlemen!

One of my favourite revenge sagas of all time is Park Chan-wook’s seminal, brutal Oldboy (and the other two films in that trilogy). You might think the title of my review is a one-line description of Oldboy – it is also a one-line description of Badlapur.

Anyway, back to Oldboy. In 2006, Sanjay Gupta attempted to remake the Korean masterpiece as Zinda. In my opinion, that was a washed-up version, an INSULT to the original. An Indian director shouldn’t even attempt to remake a tale of revenge that explores hitherto unknown base human instincts. Oldboy is a one-of-its-kind tale that cuts through the skin and goes straight for the heart. Zinda was nowhere close to that kind of storytelling.

But now we come to Badlapur. While not as brutal as Oldboy, it is certainly hard-hitting. The references to Oldboy and other Korean revenge movies are present, but what sets Badlapur apart is the minimal use of background score and blood – yes, there’s only a little of it. Oldboy had a beautiful background score and gratuitous use of violence. But not Badlapur. You’ll even find a generous sprinkling of humour throughout the film.

That’s what makes it so compelling to watch – no background score means uncomfortable passages of silence, heightening the tension. And when there IS blood, you feel a little uneasy, as you should.

The Performances

Varun Dhawan gives a virtuoso performance as Raghu, showing all of us that he CAN act, given a decent script and good director. After his antics in Main Tera Hero and Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya, this is a welcome change that shows us his range. He does come across as a sad, mourning husband at first, but his transformation to a revenge-seeking beast is very, very good. The boy has talent.

Then you have the Sriram Raghavan regulars – Ashwini Kalsekar, Vinay Pathak, Pratima Kazmi – who are very good in their respective roles. They keep the narrative together and in a sense, are the glue sticks that bind the plot together.

The leading ladies are great too – Huma Qureshi plays Jhimli, a prostitute, with aplomb, Yami Gautam looks lovely as Raghu’s wife Misha, Radhika Apte is quite brilliant as the sweet-talking, hysterical wife of Harman (Vinay Pathak) and Divya Dutta plays the criminal rehabilitator with perfection.

But honestly, who steals the show?

Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Liaq. Yes, if you thought Badlapur was a film about Raghu’s revenge, you’re wrong. Nobody owns the screen quite like this man, and he simply towers over everybody, Raghu included. His chemistry with Huma Qureshi is as sizzling as it was in Gangs of Wasseypur. His equation with Pratima Kazmi, his mother, is endearing and daunting in equal measure. And who can forget his delightful exchanges with inspector Govind Mishra (an equally brilliant Kumud Mishra).

But the story we’ve come to watch is the relationship between Raghu and Liaq, no? That’s where the story experiences one of its glitches, though – Liaq is SO bloody good, that Raghu’s revenge-seeking act sometimes pales in comparison. Liaq brings all his intensity, all his humour, all his delightful quirks to the party. And what a party it is. Slowly, over the course of Badlapur’s 134 minutes, you find your allegiance shift almost naturally from Raghu to Liaq – and you won’t even realise it.

It has a few misgivings – the song during the end credits (it’s a good song, but the video is a dampener after such a great climax), Varun’s forced delivery of certain key dialogues and his inability to match up to Nawazuddin in those scenes (not his fault at all, I might add) and there is a smattering of Bollywood masala here and there, but that’s about it. It has great songs, killer acting (especially from the kingpin Nawazuddin) and beautiful cinematography.

Badlapur is Bollywood’s first great film of 2015. And by the end of it, you’ll be asking yourself whose side you’re on. Can’t take your eyes off this one.

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