Badlapur – A Revenge Dish Gone Sour

I will start my review of Badlapur with something fantastic I read in Birdman – “A thing is a thing, not what is said about that thing.” A lot has been said about Badlapur, most of the reviewers have pretty much gone gaga over it. I, unlike my friend Prakash Gowda, am susceptible to reading reviews before writing them and more often than not, these reviews do influence what I feel about the movie. Badlapur was a notable exception though. I kept on reading reviews before and after watching the film, hoping against hope that someone out there may have felt about it the way I felt about it. Nothing happened. So here is my hat in the ring.

(Spoilers Ahead)

Badlapur Poster

I found Badlapur quite underwhelming. Here are some reasons why:

  • The Fallen Hero or The Curious Case of Misplaced Sympathy: I hate to feel cheated; emotionally and otherwise. By the time Badlapur ended, I felt as if had invested too much of my sympathy to someone who didn’t quite deserve it. I am really no expert on these things but I sincerely believe that revenge films work when you root for someone and more importantly, when you root against the other person. If this means giving the ‘villain’ ten heads and make him look despicable, then so be it. If this means that you give a corny dialogue like “Kaho, Hindustan Murdabad” just to whip up some jingoistic fervour, then so be it. If it means having a dacoit on horseback kill a ten-year old pointblank, then so be it. Halfway through Badlapur, I realised that maybe I was rooting for the wrong side. But it was too late for me to jump ships so I eventually went down with it. I hated it.
  • A Celebration of Misogyny: Badlapur treats its female characters really badly. I mean REALLY badly. A prostitute is raped; a social worker’s divorced status is conveniently used for a one-day stand alibi; a wife who loves and believes in her husband’s innocence is made to grovel and prove her own chastity to that husband; a mother’s unflinching love for her no-good son that lasts over 15 years is never repaid; and the only woman who is loved and given some amount of respect is dead and only alive in memories. I am no feminist; in fact I don’t even know what feminism stands for anymore. But the disdain with which Badlapur treats its women is truly sickening. What makes it worse is the fact that most of these dastardly acts are committed by the so-called hero of the film and not the ‘villain’. I understand that this is the sad truth about Badla (revenge) ‘system’ in India, but I wish the film had not perpetrated this idea that the best way to get back at a man is to target the women closest to him.

As if these two factors were not enough to make a film truly forgettable, there are a couple more. Badlapur is stuck in some sort of a time warp. Nothing except the character’s hairstyle and facial scruff changes over a period of 15 year. Absolutely nothing. It’s as if a kid just kicked a can and became Amitabh Bachchan! The plot has enough holes and conveniences for characters to just disappear. What happens to Raghu’s parents and in-laws? Why is it that they just completely give up on him after calling him half-heartedly to Delhi once? Quite a few things just happen for the heck of it. Would the story have been any different had Raghu gotten off at Khopoli or Ambarnath instead of Badlapur?

At this juncture, you might feel that I am just ranting and nitpicking. This is only because I had expectations from Director Sriram Raghavan. I wouldn’t feel the same about Madhur Bhandarkar who revels in the misery of his heroines. But Mr. Raghavan is better, or at least he is supposed to be. So when he pulls of a Bhandarkar, it hurts more. I am dismayed because despite all the character and plot flaws, the performance of Badlapur’s lead pair is flawless! While Varun Dhawan gives a brouhaha performance that has equal measure of sincerity and cuteness, Nawazuddin proves once and for all that he is the boss! I mean, had you not seen the first 10 minutes of the film, you’d actually feel that he is innocent. In fact all actors give really sincere performances. And when you see this kind of effort go down the drain (or perceive it to be) then that also hurts.

Whether it is fair or unfair; whether we or Mr. Raghavan like it or not; one thing is certain. Eventually all his films will be compared to Johnny Gaddaar. Badlapur has all the elements and quirks of that fantastic film – the long & continuous takes, the homage to old Hindi films, meticulous and diabolical crimes, brilliant performances et al. But Badlapur is no Johnny Gaddaar. Which is quite a tragedy because it could have been one. Revenge is a dish best served cold; but it needs to have all the ingredients in place to begin with.

Rating: 3/10 (one each for Varun and Nawazuddin and one for all the other performances put together)

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