Badla…or The Invisible Guest?

Just last week I watched Contratiempo or The Invisible Guest, a Spanish thriller on Netflix. I wish I hadn’t. For, Badla, the newly released Hindi film starring Amitabh Bachchan and Taapse Pannu, which is based on Contratiempo, would then have been a virgin experience for me. I watched Badla last night, and came away with an overwhelming sense of deja vu. Not because I wasn’t aware that this was a remake of the Spanish flick, but because it isn’t just a remake, Badla is a fame by frame, dialogue for dialogue copy of Contratiempo.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t disappointed by the story, the cast or the acting. Badla is a genuine thriller. From word Go, Amitabh Bachchan, who acts as the protagonist Taapsee Pannu’s defence lawyer, and Taapsee herself, engage your attention. Prima facie, the story is this: Married accused Naina Sethi (Pannu) is accused of the murder of her paramour Arjun (Tony Luke) in a hotel room, which was securely locked from the inside, suggesting there was no way a third person could have committed the crime and escaped undetected. Naina insists she was knocked off by a blow to her head, and when she came to, her lover was lying in a pool of blood, dead. Naina’s lawyer hires Badal Gupta (Bachchan), a defence lawyer with an ‘only-wins’ track record, to help deconstruct what happened in that hotel room.

In the intense interaction between Naina and Badal, layers are slowly peeled off, to reveal many possible ‘truths’, and one more murder, albeit with a missing body. Naina’s many faces are revealed, and this has to be among Taapsee’s best roles, almost equal to the role she essayed in Pink. She is by turns, innocent, crafty, desperate. Bachchan is perfect as Badal Gupta. The steel in him comes to the fore when he’s calling Naina’s bluff, while at other times he’s the most understanding lawyer an accused can ever have. Till the last second of the movie, the suspense is built, and it explodes in a quiet crescendo, across literally, an expanse of space, leaving you stunned at the reveal.

But only if you hadn’t, like me, watched The Invisible Guest already. I knew the story and who the likely accused was/were and the big reveal, before I went to watch Badla. I was seriously fine with that since I was genuinely curious about how Director Sujoy Ghosh had handled this movie. His Kahaani was a stunning film, and he has the deft touch when it comes to suspenseful thrillers.

Ghosh could have gone two ways – One, loosely base the film on Contratiempo, while completely localising the story, and maybe giving it his own creative touches. Or two, do a complete copy of the original film. Unfortunately, he chose the latter option. And excelled at it! Except for a couple of stray references to the epic Mahabharatha, there is nothing, absolutely nothing original in this movie. The movie is also set in the same European winter as Contratiempo. Badla is thus, a Hindi copy of the Spanish original. To be sure, the director has given credit to the Spanish film. But couldn’t he have taken the effort to localise the story a lot more?

My advice to you – do not watch Contratiempo before Badla. And if you do, be prepared to watch Contratiempo a second time. Just in Hindi, this time round!

MyGoodEarth rating: 4.5/5 (pre-Contratiempo), 3.5/5 (post-Contratiempo)

 

 

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