Badlapur (2015): Indian filmmaker Sriram Raghavan's unflinching tale of revenge with an underlying moral dilemma

Part psychological thriller, part character study that entertains and makes us think



Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews 

Badlapur, film poster, Directed by Sriram Raghavan, starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Varun Dhawan, Radhika Apte
Badlapur (2015) - By Sriram Raghavan
Our Rating: 8.0
IMDb Ratings: 7.7
Genre: Crime | Drama | Thriller
CastNawazuddin Siddiqui, Varun Dhawan, Radhika Apte
Country: India
LanguageHindi
Runtime: 134 min
Color: Color

Summary: Raghu is a happy content man who has a beautiful wife Mishti, his college sweetheart and a son Robin. This fairy tale life comes to an abrupt end when Mishti and Robin are killed in a bank robbery case. Left in a state of shock, Raghu never comes to terms with his life.


Badlapur is the latest offering from Indian filmmaker Sriram Raghavan. Badlapur stars Varun Dhawan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Huma Qureshi, Yami Gautam, Radhika Apte, Divya Dutta, and Vinay Pathak in major roles. Raghavan, whose previous projects include thrillers like Agent Vinod (2012) and Ek Hasina Thi (2004), is a self-confessed fan of the great Vijay Anand. Ragahavan is not only a pioneer of the Indian neo noir but also one of the most stylish filmmakers currently working in the Hindi film industry aka Bollywood. His films like Johnny Gaddaar (2007) are primarily style statements as well as ode to the crime thrillers of the ‘60s and the ‘70s. In Badlapur, Raghavan presents the tale of a young man named Raghav (played by Varun Dhawan) who seeks to avenge the coldblooded murder of his wife and kid committed by two bank robbers. The tragic loss of his wife and kid creates a void in Raghav’s life and he believes that his only way to redemption is through revenge. He goes about fulfilling his pledge of vengeance like a man possessed and ends up destroying several innocent lives in the process, raising questions of morality and fading the line between what’s right and what’s wrong.  
Varun Dhawan as Raghu, in Badlapur, Directed by Sriram Raghavan
Varun Dhawan as Raghu in Sriram Raghavan's Badlapur
Badlapur is an important film in the context of Hindi cinema for two major reasons:

First, it marks Sriram Raghvan’s return to film noir after a nigh fatal attempt at making an espionage thriller with Agent Vinod (at least, as far as the box office collections reflect). According to Wikipedia, “Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, from the early 1940s to the late 1950s, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations.” The protagonist is almost always an anti-hero of sorts whose vanity becomes his greatest undoing as he eventually succumbs to the odds despite being smart and well equipped to begin with. Then there are characters types like the private eye (a private detective or inquiry agent) and the femme fatale (a seductive and mysterious woman who ensnares her lovers, often leading them into deadly traps). As to the neo noir films, they almost always use the typical noir elements—albeit in a contemporary setting. Badlapur, however, cannot be described as pure film noir. While its noir quotient is somewhat low in comparison to say Johnny Gaddaar (it’s difficult to say whether it’s deliberate or not), Raghavan seems to have done a reasonable job of reigniting the increasingly moribund genre.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Badlapur, Directed by Sriram Raghavan
Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Sriram Raghavan's Badlapur
Second, it is widely seen as Varun Dhawan’s attempt to let go of his chocolate boy image and establish himself as a serious actor. In Badlapur, Sriram Raghavan juxtaposes the two Varun Dhawans—the boy madly in love with a pretty girl and the man obsessed with the idea of revenge—thereby allowing the audience to witness the transformation on the celluloid. And, as with any transformation, it’s not an easy one to accept. Also, as far as this critic is concerned, it seems like an irreversible one (Dhawan's chocolate boy image in all likelihood would cease to exist). There’s no denying that it’s a tremendously bold attempt on the part of Dhawan to take up such a rugged role in a mainstream Hindi feature film. Such a turn can either make one or break one. No mainstream actor ever since Shahrukh Khan in films like Baazigar (1993), Darr (1993) and Anjaam (1994) has managed to pull it off as far as Hindi cinema is concerned. One can only hope that Dhawan finally reverses this trend. But that’s for the time to decide. For now, it wouldn’t be wrong to endorse Raghavan’s faith in Dhawan. In an interview to The Hindu, Raghavan praises Dhawan: “Whether you like the film or not you will feel that it was a bold choice for Varun to make. When I started I was like with Nawaz I will improvise and with Varun I will follow a rigid approach and stick to the lines. Gradually, I improvised with Varun as well. I never used to say cut and sometimes what he did then was fantastic. He expressed from his own well of emotions and we have retained portions of it.”  

Varun Dhawan and Radhika Apte, in Badlapur (2015), Directed by Sriram Raghavan
Varun Dhawan and Radhika Apte (right) in Badlapur
Overall, Badlapur is part psychological thriller, part character study that entertains while simultaneously making the viewer think. While the movie has several spine-chilling sequences (some harking back to the works of Alfred Hitchcock), there are also some light moments that provide some respite from the ever brewing tension. Ragahavan shows us how people change with time and adversities. How life can change (for the better or worse) at a moment’s notice. That honesty and integrity are the last things on anyone’s mind in a diabolical world rife with criminals, corrupt officials, manipulative social workers, pimps, prostitutes, and opportunistic journalists. That redemption can never be achieved by treading the path of destruction. There is a great moral dilemma at the core of Badlapur which makes its more than a quintessential tale of revenge. But, that also proves to be a major shortcoming, for it takes away the movie’s impetus towards the end, leading to a finale that’s may be described as thought-provoking but one that’s far from being satisfying. Badapur is technically brilliant with some topnotch direction, cinematography, editing and music. Also, the emotional elements in the movie are quite convincing. The acting is solid all-around with Nawazuddin Siddiqui (although type-casted, he improvises brilliantly in many scenes) and Varun Dhawan (bold, dashing and dangerous with sado-masochistic shades) leading from the front and ably supported by Huma Qureshi (again her ethnic and earthy looks work to her advantage in a playful yet intense portrayal), Radhika Apte (her portrayal has to be the movie’s surprise package), Divya Dutta, Yami Gautam, and Vinay Pathak. Badlapur has less style and more gore (as evident from its A-certificate) compared to previous Sriram Raghavan films. So, please don’t go to the theatres expecting another Ek Hasina Thi or Johnny Gaddaar. Make sure that you go there with an open mind as only then will you be able to enjoy it to the fullest!

Readers, please feel free to share your views/opinions by leaving your comments in the box below. As always your feedback is highly appreciated!  

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4 comments:

  1. Great review....Seems like a movie worth watching... :)

    http://scribbleyourthoughts.blogspot.in/

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    Replies
    1. Glad you liked it... the movie is a must watch for any serious film goer!

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  2. Hey Nice reviews.
    Even the music seems good.
    A must watch film.
    Swati

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Swati... I am really fond of Sriram Raghavan's films. He has an eye for detail and an ear for music: be it Johnny Gaddaar or Ek Hasina Thi, he has proved this time and again. Even Agent Vinod wasn't really a bad film but it failed to strike the right cords!!!

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