Badlapur: A Cathartic Revenge Drama That Needs To Be Lauded

While last year it was Vikas Bahl’s ‘Queen’ that came in as a huge surprise, this year undoubtedly is the Varun Dhawan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui starrer ‘Badlapur’ that is going to make headlines. Sriram Raghavan, after the ‘Agent Vinod’ debacle, churns out a film which is an example of what fine film-making is all about.

BADLAPUR THEATRICAL POSTER

BADLAPUR THEATRICAL POSTER

Rarely one would find an actor, who is just three films old, who would take up a challenging role, and pull it off strikingly. Rarely, in Bollywood, one would find a story-screenplay so nicely written and rarely would you find a character like Liak, played earnestly by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, whom you empathise with more than Raghu (Varun Dhawan).

That’s the power of a film like ‘Badlapur’. The sheer unpredictability of its characters, the transition that each one undergoes in the 2 hrs and 15 minutes of the film and the catharsis that one experiences through Raghu’s revenge in the penultimate moments.

Since the time Sriram Raghavan made ‘Ek Hasina Thi’, he has always had a knack of having grey characters. And that continues with ‘Badlapur’ as well, wherein even the least important character, with no major role to play in the film, springs up a surprise. And such small insights make ‘Badlapur’ a riveting experience.

Coming to the story, Raghu loses his wife Misha (Yami Gautam) and his son, who are killed under unfortunate circumstances after a bank robbery. While it is obvious to assume who is behind the robbery, Sriram Raghavan lets the audience think and ponder even as Raghu vows to take revenge, despite meeting his wife’s killer/s. He keeps you hooked till the last fifteen minutes with several twists and turns that spring up huge surprises.

It goes without saying that ‘Badlapur’ is Sriram’s finest work after Johnny Gaddar. The sharp writing (Sriram Raghavan and Arijit Biswas), the sleek editing (Pooja Ladha Surti), the top notch cinematography (Anil Mehta) and exemplary performances from the lead cast makes ‘Badlapur’ one awesome movie experience. A haunting background score by Sachin-Jigar also makes it more engaging, adding soul to the dark revenge saga.

Of the female leads, Huma Qureshi impresses with her seducing act, followed by Divya Dutta and Radhika Apte. Yami Gautam as Varun’s wife has a small role but plays it with conviction.

Varun Dhawan, in just his fourth film, impresses with his performance and plays Raghu’s character with so much maturity. It is good for an actor of his stature, who has so far played subtle roles, to do a film like ‘Badlapur’, which gives him so much scope as an actor. One cannot ignore the expressiveness of the actor and his desperation to seek revenge. Varun Dhawan is lucky to grab an opportunity, a film like ‘Badlapur’, so early in his career.

But personally, if ‘Badlapur’ raises its bar as a film, it is because of Nawazuddin Siddiqui and his character Liak. Liak is what keeps ‘Badlapur’ moving. Unpredictable, wicked and menacing is what could sum up his character. He again proves that one does not need a villain, dressed in dapper suits and superior in style to carry of a film. Sometimes being the wicked poor man may just win more brownie points!

Final Verdict: ‘Badlapur’ is a cathartic revenge drama that has only raised the bar of the films made in Bollywood. We need more of such films. It’s a film that surely deserves a watch!

Rating : *** 1/2

Highway: Missing this wonderful experience would be a mistake

If Imtiaz Ali had made ‘Highway’ fifteen years earlier, when he first had written the script, the film would have sank without a trace and the audiences wouldn’t have been witness to Ali’s finest works, ‘Socha Na Tha’, ‘Jab We Met’, ‘Love Aaj Kal’ and ‘Rockstar’. It is only after Imtiaz Ali walked his way to success making the above films, that he made ‘Highway’, which itself was a smart move on the part of the director. Neither the audiences back then were ready for a film like ‘Highway’ nor was Imtiaz, as he said in an interview.

Highway-poster

While the outcome of this film in terms of box-office standards will only be decided in course of time, it will be only fair to say that ‘Highway’ may not taste as much commercial success as compared to Ali’s previous works because it is a concept that may appeal to a few and shunned by many. As I have always said in my reviews, anything different offered in the platter for a Bollywood audience, is sure to backfire and ‘Highway’ is just another different film.

Hopefully unlike ‘Lootera’, which appealed to a certain section of audiences and was shunned by the ultimate BOLLYWOOD lovers, Highway has its entertaining moments.

Veera Tripathi (Alia Bhatt) is getting geared for her wedding. While her family and relatives are excited about the rituals and preparations, Veera feels claustrophobic and wants to escape the madness happening inside the house. She and her fiancée then head for a small drive, which extends to travelling to the outskirts of the highway. But Veera’s fate takes a 360 degree turn, when she is kidnapped by Mahabir Bhaati (Randeep Hooda), a Gujjar; seeking revenge from Veera’s father (the motive is never known). While Veera is scared and frightened by the affair and pleads Bhati, eventually she overcomes her fear and begins to accept her fate only to be drawn closer to Mahabir. As Mahabir and Veera travel through the ‘Highway’, they experience a strange transformation in their lives, speaking to each other and sharing their life stories. The otherwise, rugged and harsh Mahabir goes soft on Veera, while Veera experiences a life that she has never seen before.

Like Imtiaz Ali’s previous films, characters are a strong point in ‘Highway’ and the detailing that has gone out to edge them just goes to show Ali’s observational skills. Inspite of the flaws, they appear to be realistic and deeply engaging. Another highlight of ‘Highway’ is its writing. It isn’t extraordinary yet engaging. Road movies are the less travelled genre in India. But ‘Highway’ stands out from the movies made in recent times (Road Movie – Dev Benegal, The Good Road – Gyan Correa, Road – Rajat Mukherjee) because it is so technically sharp, colourfully rich (Cinematography by Anil Mehta is par excellence) and the sound design (Resul Pookutty) is noteworthy. With minimal background score and silence doing the tricks, and sounds of the gushing water, the crickets and engine, ‘Highway’ seems more like being a part of the road trip than watching a movie. Even the shots seem so unconventional and different especially the sequence when Veera escapes and the camera is running along with her. And that’s precisely the reason a section of audiences may be in awe of it while a huge section-n may find it a tedious as it offers no masala, no entertainment to say!

A.R. Rahman’s music is captivating and soulful and perfectly blends with the theme of the film. In a film that has a subtle, minimal background score; Rahman weaves magic with tunes like ‘Tu Kuja’, ‘Pattaka Gudi’.

Coming to the performances, Randeep Hooda as Mahabir is fantastic to the core. Whether it is his ruggedness or his emotional outburst, Randeep is in fine form. It’s a bit sad considering the dominance of the stars in Bollywood that an actor like him is pretty under-rated. What Randeep brings in to ‘Highway’ is the natural harshness, reality of the other world that blends perfectly with Alia’s character, a little eccentric, bubbly and vivacious.

But wait. One will be in for a huge surprise after watching Alia Bhatt’s performance in ‘Highway’. I, like many other film lovers believed that she got the easiest break in ‘Student of the Year’ and played the candy-floss chic without much effort. But, I take back my words.

Alia Bhatt’s performance in ‘Highway’, only her second film, is one of the rare performances coming from an actress so early in her career. She brings in the freshness and carries of the role of Veera convincingly and more importantly naturally. Be it scenes, where she talks to herself, breaks into a dance sequence in the middle of the highway, a long monologue towards the climax, the emotional conversations with Mahabir about her troubled childhood, Alia steals the show completely and bowls one with her performance. She may have a little trait of Kareena’s character from ‘Jab We Met’, but she brings in her own style – A little eccentric, bubbly and yet so deeply emotional and lost. She would have easily gone overboard with her act and hammed in sequences, but she doesn’t and walks away with the meatiest role in the film.

Probably the only flaw in Highway is that it begins to meander towards the climax. At a point of time, it probably gets tedious with Mahabir and Veera’s romance headed nowhere and the audience knows the outcome. Also the last but one scene before the climax, which to me was the most important scene, seemed a little rushed through. Maybe it was intentional that after a long stretch of silence, there had to be that moment to wake the audience up again!

Final Verdict: All said, ‘Highway’ is a wonderful experience rich in visuals and sound. Missing this would be a mistake, at least for people who love road movies. It’s probably one of those films, which, considering the Bollywood taste is way different in approach, style and execution. With our audiences expecting the run-of-mill masala, the fate of the film is well-known. But nevertheless it’s one of the films that leads the way to Indian Cinema’s rather Bollywood’s future.

Rating: *** 1/2