Cast: Varun Dhawan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Huma Qureshi, Yaami Gautam, Vinay Pathak, Radhika Apte, Divya Dutta, Pratima Kazmi, Kumud Mishra, Murli Sharma
Director: Sriram Raghavan
Rating: 3 stars
Imagine if life as we know it, the lives we live, regret, resent, get irritated with, the life that fills us, the life that we leave in the mornings and return to in the evenings, imagine if that life ceases to be. Just like that. In a matter of seconds. Imagine that your world, the one you’ve built piece by piece, just vanishes. Finished. Over. Gone. In a matter of seconds.
Imagine if your worst nightmare came true.
It does, for Raghu (Varun Dhawan), in that moment when he’s showing a new ad for a push-up bra and joking with colleagues about his boss. His life, as he left it in the morning, he’s informed on the phone, is now gone. What remains is one body on a hospital bed and another on a cold steel table.
In a breathless beginning in Pune, on a rather regular afternoon, a robbery, the need for a getaway car, leads to a stunning tragedy. It’s a tragedy of unbearable proportions, made so much more harrowing and real because of the breakneck speed at which it takes place and writer-director Raghavan’s curt delivery.
Govind Mishra (Kumud Mishra) is the cop in charge of the case. He informs Raghu how his wife and son were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. The cops have caught one of two robbers, Laik (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who claims he is innocent. His partner is the culprit, he says. But the partner isn’t to be found.
But Raghu is a man rendered insane by grief, anger and his only reaction is primal, visceral. He wants revenge. He wants to hurt the ones who hurt him, just like they hurt him.
Memories of the life he once had locked in a room, he goes hunting.
Determined to track down the other culprit, a weakness of Laik, who is serving a 20-year jail sentence, he hires a detective. His search first leads him to Jhimli (Huma Qureshi), Laik’s sweetheart, and later to the partner who went missing and whose name Laik won’t take.
Raghu’s moments with Jhimli make you wonder if our cinema has come of age and Pahlaj Nihalani & Co. just missed it. In the first half, Badlapur abandons the regular narratives and takes quick detours to where the action is — bloody and carnal — with Laik, Jhimli and Raghu. It cuts to the chase and goes in for thrust and torque and the impact is immense.
Till interval the film’s pace and style are in a sexy, rhythemic mode, while retaining a tight emotional grip on us. It’s fabulous.
After interval, however, when Vinay Pathak and Radhika Apte and, Divya Dutta invade the film, the script goes hither-thither, resorts to a Dexter-inspired scene, and slows down to deliver a message about revenge. All this is terribly disheartening because we’ve been waiting for Varun Dhawan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui to lock their horns and given us the face-off that’s being talked about so much. It’s fleeting. Sriram Raghavan is right about what he says in the film’s title — Don’t miss the beginning. The end, well...
With Badlapur, Raghavan returns once again to the theme of revenge (Ek Hasina Thi, 2004), and it feels like, after the disastrous Agent Vinod, that he’s getting his mojo back. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is littering cinema. As he goes along, with every role of his, he’s creating archetypes. His Laik isn’t just a hardened criminal with no remorse or regret. His Laik is a complicated, desperate man. Self-obsessed, cussed and hardened. A delightful sociopath that only Siddiqui could have delivered.
But Badlapur, of course, is committed more to its hero, Varun Dhawan. Dhawan is great, especially when he has to hold a look, exude one basic emotion — rage, anger, grief, need for revenge. He’s especially good when women are around him — his scene with Huma Qureshi is rather impressive. Badlapur marks a great beginning of a career where, we all hope, for our sake, Dhawan will take on roles more challenging and twisted. And give a nudge to the complacent trio + the BigB.
Huma Qureshi has incredible screen presence and she owns scenes when the going is wicked. But in a regular scene she’s so wanting it’s shocking. There’s something about Divya Dutta that bores me these days. Her self-conscious and deliberate act of a slutty Mother Earth figure is very heavy and now rather stale. Time to shift gears.