Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Badlapur: When Revenge is Vintage

Revenge is a dish best served cold.
                                            -  Klingon saying

The modern discourse is populated by calls for revenge and retribution. Revenge has gained acceptance in popular culture as justified if one feels slighted. But what about the revenge seeker? When does the yearning for revenge die? What if it stays alive?

Badlapur doesn't tackle these questions head on, but it does visit them. Let's not forget, first and foremost, this is a masala film, and it stays true to the genre.

Sriram Raghavan, a master of thrillers, tells a story of revenge, but true to the genre, presents it with a lot of twists. People expecting a straightforward revenge and redemption story may be disappointed but those that love a good thriller will find it satisfying.

The story, told in a linear fashion goes thus: Raghu's (Varun Dhawan) wife Misha and son Robin, while returning home one day end up becoming hostages to an escape from a bank heist. Both are killed and the culprit, Laik (Nawazuddin), is jailed for the crime though he claims that his partner did it without revealing his name. Liak is a free man after fifteen years and as he goes to collect his share of his booty, discovers that Raghu had killed his partner Harman and his wife, and his love is a rich man's keep.

The theme of Badla or revenge runs prominently throughout the movie, but a subliminal theme also is of a badlav (change). Time changes everyone.  As Raghu waits for his revenge, he undergoes a badlav from a man mourning over the death of his family to a loner who is looking for a chance to avenge the murder of his wife and son. Liak, too,  metamorphoses from an eternal optimist in the prison to a jaded person once he manages to come out.  People change, as does the times. Holding on to memories - tragic ones for Raghu and happy ones for Liak - is no protection against the present. There is no redemption to be had in memories.
Liak's coming out of prison sets into motion a chain of events that forces to audience to view the protagonist and the antagonist in a new light. To paraphrase a Gulzar song, भला बुरा है, बुरा भला है।  As tables turn, one wonders if there is any absolution for the players. Raghu lost his family in one brutal incident, while Liak lost his love over the years but only realised it when he came out of prison. Both face their demons in their own fashion.
Varun Dhawan is a revelation, in that he can pull in a performance. Though not fully convincing, he shows that he is ready to push his limits, which is a good thing. Nawazuddin puts in a great performance that has come to be expected from him, and then takes it a notch higher. His Liak is at once reprehensible as well as pitiable. Huma Qureshi, Vinay Pathak, Radhika Apte also put in convincing performance. Pathak, especially, is a treat to watch, as he belies expectations from his character convincingly. He deserves a movie of his own and not of the Bheja Fry kind.
The director loves the jump cut as a plot device to move the story forward. It takes a little getting used to, but in the end, makes for an interesting narrative.
Badlapur is not your typical Bollywood revenge saga, but is told deftly to interest even a hardcore masala lover.

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