The opening statically shot scene of Badlapur doesn’t get better than this. Neither does the end.
You just wish that the film in between, had a more definitive momentum, thrill and tension; glimpsed only during a fabulously executed, cold murder sequence with a hammer.
The director, Sriram Raghavan, has a penchant for anti-hero films. His first two films, Ek Haseena Thi, starring Saif Ali Khan in a negative role, and Johnny Gaddar, stood out for their uniquely wicked narratives. Badlapur is no different.
Badlapur, despite its common story of revenge, follows an interesting format, not explored often in Bollywood. There is ample humour to lighten up the film’s somber tone, with some good lines (Reference to Mumbai’s “Maratha Mandir’ is a case in point).
For starters, the villain, Laik (Nawazuddin Siddique) is actually funny. He is almost likeable and even has a lovely little love story. The more likeable he gets as the film progresses, the more unlikeable, the hero, Raghu (Varun Dhawan) gets.
Ditto with the actors but more on that, later.
Raghu is a white collared ad-man whose wife (Yami Gautam, powerful and brief) and child get brutally killed in a bank robbery chase. This part is so realistically shot, that it grips you with its shocking brutality.
Unfortunately, the film loosens its hold as it gets carried away with Laik’s shameless character and his funny antics, right till the interval. Nothing happens for a long while.
Then, all of a sudden, with the arrival of a cool and smooth Vinay Pathak, Badlapur, comes alive. With gusto and grit. This kind of uneven pacing takes away from the very raison d'être of the film.
Raghu, in the meanwhile, suddenly and inexplicably, transforms from a regular common guy, into a revenge seeking, violent man who will not stop at even screwing a prostitute (Huma Qureshi), Laik’s love interest.
In fact, it is his interactions with women that are at once fascinating and disgusting. And there are two more: an NGO activist, (Divya Dutta) and Koko (Radhika Apte) the wife of Laik’s crime partner.
Radhika Apte, known in Marathi cinema, is an unsuspecting scene stealer of Badlapur. In a riveting performance, she shows how she can take off her clothes on screen and yet bring out only a feeling of abject desperation of her character.
While, with scenes like these, Raghu’s ugly and ruthless face of revenge, comes forth; the empathy factor for his personal grief over his wife’s death for 15 long years, locked in a room in a fictitious place called Badlapur, declines steadily.
Varun Dhawan’s complete lack of intensity doesn’t help much either. His beard is not enough to cover his youthful and expressionless face. There is simply no trace of anger or pain in his eyes or body language.
Little wonder, then that Badlapur remains unintentionally, Nawazuddin’s film. He steals both the thunder and the laughs and even a tear in a small moment with Huma. A 70s style background music score accompanying his release from jail, is like a brownie bonus.
By the time Badlapur ends, it does succeed in reminding you of Shakespeare’s:
“Murder’s out of tune
And sweet revenge grows harsh.”