Cast: Parineeti Chopra, Aditi Rao Hydari, Kriti Kulkarni, Avinash Tiwary
Direction: Ribhu Dasgupta
Streaming on: Netflix
The Girl On The Train is a film concocted out of two things found in abundance in Bollywood: dumb cliches and staggering imbecility. The film is boring beyond belief despite all the twists and turns the story takes.
A remake of the 2016 Hollywood film of the same name, which was an adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ 2015 hit novel, writer-director Ribhu Dasgupta’s film starring Parineeti Chopra would not have been so insufferable had he not attempted to “write” it, and instead had just pasted the Hollywood screenplay on Google translate. It would have also helped if he had found actors who could convincingly hyperventilate in his psychological thriller.
Though based on the Hollywood film which was directed by Tate Taylor and had a stirring performance by Emily Blunt, desi The Girl On The Train has an ensemble of cast that can be summarised as ‘three bearded men and three pretty women’. As actors, they are a neat mix of the severely inept and actors who have given decent performances in the past but seem to be in competition here for the worst acting awards. Whenever those are given out, I’d like to nudge the judges to hand the top honours to Parineeti Chopra. She redefines bad acting.
The film opens with a girl in a red hoodie running scared in a forest. She is being pursued by a person in a blue/black hoodie. Next, at a train station, we see a girl in a black jacket with a hood. She's swaying at the edge of the platform. It could be booze, it could be the effects of the golf ball-sized bruise on her forehead. It could be both.
The kajal that encircles her eyes has a life of its own and should have been given acting credit. It thickens and lessens to denote the rising, reducing levels of her anxiety.
To tell us who is who, the film goes back in time.
Once, at a wedding, Shekhar (Avinash Tiwary), the groom's buddy, made eyes at Mira (Parineeti Chopra), friend of the bride. They got married after a very dull date.
We are in London, and the film is so chuffed about this fact that it repeatedly shows us shots of the London Bridge etc throughout the film.
Anyway, Mira the advocate is out shopping when she is chased by a mysterious black SUV. She makes irritating faces and rushes to her house to hyperventilate. But then...
Director Ribhu Dasgupta has said about making The Girl On The Train, “We’ve given the Hindi adaptation our own colour”.
Essentially, it means that he has picked Bollywood's silly, stock scenes to do the following:
How to convey threat?
A threat typed neatly on paper is wrapped around a stone and together they make a star-like hole as they crash through glass before landing in the protagonist's house. "Don't take up the case,” it says, succinctly.
How to show that the heroine is a good wife but also a conscientious lawyer?
Make the husband murmur “we are simple people, pregnancy… let’s not take panga”. She listens but then, wrapped up in super serious air and wearing smugness like an essential accessory, she goes right ahead to answer the call of duty and all.
Mira fights the case and sends the bad guy, Jimmy Bagga, to jail. And after her victory, instead of doing a happy jig or a high-five, she dangles the smugness again as tells the guy she has saved, “Stay away from drugs and guns”. Ya, sure. Done.
How does Bollywood convey something very bad is going to happen?
Husband-wife are out on a film date. Wife’s belly is protruding and the husband says, ‘It was a tense movie na, not good for baby…’ They get into their car and the camera stays on the happy couple.
How does a woman who has been cheated upon by her husband react?
She drinks, gatecrashes his date and then proceeds to trash his car.
You get the drift.
An accident means Mira’s short term memory now forgets to become long term. She loses the life she wanted and so she takes a train, daily, to spy on a woman who lives in her old house, Nusrat John (Aditi Rao Hydari). But then, one day, Mira sees Nusrat with a man who is not her husband... Haw hai!!
A disappearance unleashes Inspector Kaur (Kirti Kulhari) upon us. The turbaned cop does the sort of posturing while interrogating suspects that 5-year-olds do when they steal daddy's Ray-Bans and leather jacket for show-off time.
There is some element of suspense in the original story and though that remains in the film it is made completely beside the point because the rest of the journey is so insufferable.
Bad writing, terrible filmmaking, atrocious acting and... I am running out of adjectives to convey how annoyingly bad it is. Suffice to say that The Girl On The Train is an idiot film that thinks we are idiots too.
All the film's characters are whittled down to their basic purpose and role in the story and can be described thus: Creepy husbands, creepier dance class guy, very vague but caring psychiatrist, sad girl, sad girl with a drinking problem, tough cop... and so on.
Parineeti Chopra has never been so out of her depth. Here her acting prowess seems to be focussed on how wide she can flare her nostrils while, simultaneously, rolling back her eyes as if she is a pret aatma trying to scare her younger, pret aatma sibling.
Kriti Kulkarni's hammy I-sometimes-chew-gum act of a serious, tough cop would have been laughable if it wasn't so bad.
Avinash Tiwary tries to do some acting towards the end. But it's a drop in this ocean of nonsense.
Aditi Rao Hydari is pretty but she's also a pretty inconsequential actor. She is not bad, but she is always so pretty. Always. I'd rather see the London Bridge for the hundredth time.