The film starts with the following African proverb:
” The Axe forgets but the tree remembers …”
Let me begin by pointing out that I don’t enjoy Bollywood movies much, not because they’re not usually entertaining but because most movies each year pander to the lowest denominator of society. Indian film industry, in my opinion was at it’s prime in the 50s since India just got independent and there was a drive to succeed. The 60s & 70s had most stars ripping off Hollywood (thus getting the infamous Bollywood tag, which I still prefer not to use) and I prefer not to talk about the 90s as a whole. I must also point out here that a renaissance parallel cinema was thriving in tandem with the mainstream which gave us amazing actors like Anupam Kher, Naseeruddin Shah & Om Puri. This balance is what makes the film industry what it is today where you’ll mostly get a lot of masala Salman Khan/Shahrukh Khan blockbusters every year, mostly being sheer dumb entertainment and a Badlapur/Johny Gaddar/Gangs of Wasseypur.
[Spoilers follow] The movie begins with Misha(Yami Gautam) & her son Robin shopping and returning home when they’re abducted in a high octane car chase that involves a bank robbery. The bank robbers: Liak(Siddiqui) & Harman(Pathak) intimidate the mother-son and during the chase sequence kill them. What follows is a character study that was unexpected.
The palette is old but the structure is deliciously unique such that no screen time is wasted on playing the traditional revenge drama of will he or will he not be caught? That question gets answered in the first 30 minutes and the movie takes a 15 year time jump showing us how these characters have evolved. ‘Badlapur’ uniquely showcases how no one is truly good or bad but rather shaped by the circumstances he/she is thrown in. Raghav who is the supposed hero of the movie makes some really questionable moves while Liak who starts out as the absolute villain displays an uncanny humanity.
I would also like to give an honorable mention to Radhika Apte who plays Kanchan, the wife of Harman. Her ability to emote through her eyes and hands is truly gut-wrenching and I expect her to go places.
Overall, I would give Badlapur a solid 8/10. Here is a movie that shows you that a newcomer actor in the hands of a deft writer and a solid all rounded cast can deliver. Watch it for the spectacularly muted performances of Siddiqui & Dhawan and to see that there is more to Bollywood(read the Indian film industry) than the usual song ‘n’ dance routine.
I wrote this article originally on Moviepilot.com here in March last year.