(Read if you wish to as there may be spoilers in the review)
Eros International and Maddock Films’ Badlapur (A) is a dark revenge drama. Raghav’s (Varun Dhawan) wife, Misha (Yaami Gautam), and little son, Robin (master Neil Tyagi), are killed by two robbers on the run. Liak (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and Harman (Vinay Pathak) hijack Misha’s car and hold her and her son captive inside as they are escaping after a planned loot. They kill Misha and Robin almost immediately when the two try to force them to stop. Liak actually murders the two while his accomplice, Harman, watches on shocked. Even as the two criminals are on the run, with the police giving them a hot chase, Harman manages to give the police the slip and escapes with the loot money. Liak is arrested and sentenced to jail for 20 years.
Since the loot money runs into crores of rupees, Liak refuses to reveal the name of his accomplice to the police. However, to save his own skin, he keeps telling the police that his accomplice had committed the murders. Years pass by but Raghav’s single agenda in life remains to seek revenge. He wants the name of Liak’s partner-in-crime as he, too, believes that the partner had eliminated his wife and son.
While in jail, Liak gets stomach cancer and the doctors estimate that he has just one more year to live. Shobha (Divya Dutta), who runs an NGO for the rehabilitation of jail inmates, approaches Raghav and requests him to forgive Liak on humanitarian grounds so that he (Liak) could be set free on medical grounds and could thereby lead the last year of his life with dignity. With revenge as his sole mission in life, Raghav is prepared to do so if and only if Liak would tell him who his accomplice was. But Liak refuses to do so as he fears that if Harman were to be arrested, the loot money would be confiscated by the police.
Help comes to Raghav when Liak’s mother, pleading before Raghav to forgive her son so that he could be released from jail, spills the beans about Harman. In no time, Raghav meets Harman and his wife, Kanchan (Radhika Apte), and reveals his identity. After mentally torturing the two, he kills both of them but not before taking the loot money and Liak’s passport which Harman was to deliver to Liak for his safe passage abroad.
Now, Raghav wants to meet Liak once again. But does he succeed in meeting Liak? Does Raghav hand over the money and passport to Liak? Does Raghav murder Liak? Or does Liak turn out to be one up on Raghav? Does Raghav ever get to know who actually killed his wife and child? Is Raghav punished by law for the murders he commits?
Massimo Carlotto has written a story which is a dark revenge drama and which doesn’t have great novelty. But the screenplay, written by Sriram Raghavan, Arijit Biswas and Pooja Ladha Surti, keeps the audience engaged from the start till the end. No doubt, there are points where the interest level of the viewers dips because the drama looks stretched but it never fails to engage the viewers. Having said that, it must be added that the film will appeal more to the classes than the masses, more so because of the second half. The twists and turns after the interval are more of the kind which would find favour with the classes. The last couple of reels, in which Raghav wants to meet Liak, and actually does meet him seem to be redundant at the end of the day, from Raghav’s point of view. Put differently, the writers have not been able to establish why Raghav was thirsting to reach Liak. It, obviously, couldn’t be to merely tell Liak that he (Raghav) had killed Harman and Kanchan and that he had ensured that the loot money doesn’t reach Liak. Even without Raghav saying so to Liak, the latter would realise that the money is not his if it didn’t reach him. And if only passing on the information to Liak was the reason, well, the hopes of the audience are raised in a different direction before Raghav actually meets Liak post-Harman’s murder. That the drama takes a shocking turn in the last reel is, of course, a nice twist but that does not in any way justify why Raghav was so keen to meet Liak.
Raghav killing Kanchan looks very un-hero-like. Similarly, Raghav teaching Shobha a lesson seems uncalled for because she, after all, was well within her rights, coming from the NGO which she was running. Rehabilitation of jail inmates is a noble cause even if it comes in the way of Raghav achieving his mission in life. That Raghav can’t distinguish between the villains and the noble or the unconnected people leaves a bad taste in the audience’s mouth. These two points (of Raghav killing Kanchan, and seeking revenge on Shobha) somewhere dilute the audience’s sympathy for Raghav because they make him appear villainish. Simultaneously, the character of Liak is not shown to be terrorising at all but it rather becomes endearing as the drama progresses, if only because of his antics. This is probably the reason why the viewers get up with a feeling of not having been fully satisfied when the end titles begin to roll – they don’t experience the high they ought to have because somewhere, they have, much earlier on, started to hope that something good should happen in Liak’s life. The writers have tried to add light scenes to balance the tension but those light scenes don’t have the desired impact. The drama has very gross violent scenes which don’t make the film appealing for women and families. But the youngsters and the class audience in the big cities will definitely enjoy the drama. Dialogues, penned by the trio, are nice, but mainly those mouthed by Liak.
Varun Dhawan does a very good job. He plays the role of Raghav effectively. But his dialogue delivery does not have the desired impact. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is, hands down, the star of the show. He impresses in every single scene and gets into the skin of the character so very brilliantly that there could veritably have been no other actor better than him in this role. His is an award-winning performance indeed. Yaami Gautam looks pretty and leaves a mark in a short role. Vinay Pathak is effective as Harman. As his wife, Radhika Apte does a swell job and gives a noteworthy performance. Huma Qureshi lives the role of prostitute Jhimli. She is first-rate. Divya Dutta lends superb support. Pratima Kannan shines as Liak’s mother. Kumud Mishra makes his presence felt as police inspector Govind Mishra. Ashwini Kalsekar lends able support as detective Joshi but has a tiny role. Murali Sharma has his moments as Michael. Zakir Hussain provides lovely support as Patil, the paramour of Jhimli. Master Neil Tyagi (as Robin), Gopal Singh (as sub-inspector Khanolkar), Divya Bhatiya (as Raghav’s father), Paromita Chatterjee (as Raghav’s mother), Anandi (as Misha’s mother), Bala Subramaniam (as Misha’s father), Vijay Salve (as the jailor) and the others are adequate.
Sriram Raghavan’s direction is very nice. He has made the dark thriller with the right amount of energy although he could’ve made it crisper and more fast-paced. Sachin-Jigar’s music is hit. ‘Jee karda’, ‘Jeena jeena’ and ‘Judaai’ songs are already a rage. But the songs don’t have the desired impact in the film; their audio appeal is far greater. Dinesh Vijan and Priya Saraiya’s lyrics are soulful. Ahmed Khan’s choreography is suited to the drama. Sachin-Jigar’s background music is quite nice. Anil Mehta’s cinematography is of a high standard. Action scenes have been well choreographed by Parvez Fazal Khan but they are just too violent. Production designing, by Donald Reagan Gracy and Anita Lata Rajagopalan, is appropriate. Pooja Ladha Surti’s editing is sharp.
On the whole, Badlapur will be liked more by the classes and will score in the big cities, ultimately proving a safe bet. Its appeal for the womenfolk, families and the small centres is limited.