Badla is a film where the two main protagonists, Naina Sethi (Taapsee Pannu) and her lawyer Badal Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan), talk to each other for a large part of the film. But this is no staid conversation – there are undercurrents of lies, deceit, and desperation. The air is filled with intrigue and truth is shifting, while Badal tries to get the whole unvarnished truth in an attempt to save his client.
Naina is a successful businesswoman in the UK who, in her own words, loves her husband and daughter. That, however, does not prevent her from indulging in an extra marital affair with a photographer Arjun Joseph (Tony Luke), who too is married. Her world comes crashing down when Naina is found injured in a hotel room where her lover is found murdered. There is no way an outsider could have entered the room, making Naina the prime suspect. Her lawyer hires Badal Gupta to save her as Badal has never lost a case in his entire career of 40 years.
Though Naina is accused of murder, she has the attitude of a powerful and successful person. She is not ready to bare all, even to her lawyer. Badal Gupta on the other hand, is not a person who will believe anything at face value. He questions, counter questions, pokes holes at her story, so that Naina is ready to face the prosecutor. Initially claiming to know nothing more than the circumstances she was found in, Naina slowly opens up to reveal an accident that could be related to Arjun’s murder. The accident involves a young boy whose parents Rani (Amrita Singh) and Nirmal (Tanveer Ghani) are convinced Naina has something to do with their son’s disappearance. Though police have cleared Naina in that case, Rani is doggedly stalking Naina to find out the truth. Naina nudges Badal to work out the true scenario without telling him everything as she wants to see how smart he is.
Badla is an authorized remake of Spanish crime thriller Contratiempo and stays faithful to the original movie other than reversing genders. Setting the film in UK also allowed Sujoy Ghosh to not have to adapt to the Indian setup. The casting itself sets the tone of the film, and comes to the point right from the first scene. The frames are dark, drab and rich. However, the force behind the film are Bachchan Senior and Taapsee who keep the suspense alive. While you cannot look away as Amitabh accentuates his simple questioning with play on words and minute mannerisms, Taapsee is openly opaque indicating many chinks in her armour. Amrita Singh, too, is in fine form. She brilliantly transitions from a beseeching mom to a person out to get revenge.
There are no surprises if you have seen the original; even then the film is interesting for the performances. If you haven’t, then you are on for a thrill ride. Like most whodunit, you can poke holes in the narrative looking back. But while it is on, the performances and the taut pace makes for a thrilling viewing. Another suspenseful thriller from Sujoy’s stable.