Cast- Amitabh Bachchan, Taapsee Pannu, Amrita Singh, Manav Kaul, Tony Luke, Denzil Smith, Antonio Akeel, Tanveer Ghani
Director- Sujoy Ghosh
Producer- Gauri Khan
“Look at the details. The answer is in the details, “Amitabh Bachchan repeatedly tells Taapsee Pannu in Badla, an attorney who asks his client to look closer and harder at what’s in front of them to see the clue that could prove their innocence. Frankly, the viewers who are trying to solve the suspense in this twisty thriller are also good advice. Just look closely; it’s there right.
Badla is an official remake of the gripping Spanish whodunit The Invisible Guest, directed by Kahaani’s Sujoy Ghosh, who obviously knows his way around stories that hide more than what’s on the surface. Wisely, Ghosh mainly remains faithful to the original film’s blueprint apart from swapping the main characters ‘ genders.
Taapsee plays Naina Sethi, a married woman charged with murdering her lover in what appears to be the prosecution’s open-and-shut case. Bachchan is Badal Gupta, a top lawyer hired to ensure that her defense does not contain any chinks. As he interrogates her in pursuit of the truth, we are learning more and more about what might actually have happened the night that her lover’s body was discovered in a hotel room that she was present in, showing no signs of anybody else entering or leaving.
The film, created as a kind of verbal duel between client and lawyer, sees Naina making revelations and Badal challenging her claims. As the layers are peeled one by one, the narrative moves back and forth in time. Naina insists that she is innocent, but does Naina tell the truth?
The zig-zag plotting of the film is its greatest strength, although the ending is not particularly difficult to figure out. Yet Ghosh keeps the suspense boiling and the viewer has invested in the result. You could put it down to the crisp pace of the film, or to the cast who are working hard to convincingly pull off their roles.
Taapsee Pannu and Amitabh Bachchan do the heavy lifting for the most part, and they are in good shape as strangers who are not sure if they can trust each other. Notwithstanding his accent, Tony Luke brings unpredictability to the proceedings as the assassinated lover of Naina Arjun; and Manav Kaul is always a welcome presence, even in a small cameo as the legal counsel of Naina. But it is Amrita Singh who is in a crucial role leaves a lasting impression, her every expression that conveys emotion and feelings bottled up. How wonderful to see her used for middle-aged actresses beyond the typical roles of Bollywood reserves.
Badla is beautifully mounted, mostly unfolding in Glasgow atmospheric, dull, wintertime. The film doesn’t pack the wallop delivered by Kahaani, but it’s a respectable thriller that rarely loses its pace or attention.