The Invisible Guest (2017) was a critically acclaimed Spanish film which met with commercial success as well. Badla is an official remake of that and is quite faithful to the original plot. Though it does deviate on some details.
Badal Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan) is a defence attorney who hasn’t lost a criminal case on his career spanning 40 years. He meets a new client Naina Sethi (Taapsee Pannu), who is accused of killing her lover, Tony Luke. He begins asking her pertinent questions, exposing a web of lies and half-truths. It isn’t clear what the actual truth is, each new revelation making the tale more dark and complex. Whether Naina will get justice and whether Badal will be able to rescue truth from the quicksand of deceit forms the crux of the film.
The film is set in Glasgow, Scotland and it’s lush locales, it’s woods, lakes become a minor character in the film and are instrumental in taking the story forward. Cinematographer
Avik Mukhopadhyay has brought alive the beauty of the place with his deft camera work. A large portion is shot in an apartment as well and the inside shots too are well executed. You get the feeling you’re privy to two people are having an intense conversation. The film’s story takes place almost in real time, what with Amitabh Bachchan grilling Taapsee for close to three hours. Deft editing by Monisha R Baldawa has made sure the pace never slackens any time. The film has got twists and turns aplenty, and hence the narrative changes every few minutes. The writing makes sure that everything we see looks plausible. The dialogue keep referring to the Gita and Mahabharata and the reference offers a clue to the film’s big reveal. Discerning viewers are sure to work the mystery out.
Close door mysteries, as well as psychological thrillers are two different sub genres and it’s great to see them seamlessly fitting together to create a whole. As said earlier, it’s mostly a two character drama and the film would have fallen flat if the histrionics of Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee wasn’t there to support it. Taapsee offers naiveté, vulnerability and steely determination in different parts of the film. She brings forth different shades as the story unfolds. She finds a perfect partner in Amitabh Bachchan, taking her cues from the thespian and building on them. Mr Bachchan again shows why he’s the gold standard in acting. He is utterly convincing in his portrayal of a shrewd lawyer. Wait for his reaction to the film’s denouement — the flicker that passes through his face says it all without saying anything. Amrita Singh is the surprise package of the film. She acts as its moral compass and brings a human face to the tragedy.
In short, Badla is a true-blue mystery thriller alright. Bollywood directors don’t much attempt the genre and it’s high time they did so…