Movie Review: Badlapur (Hindi)

"The axe forgets, but the tree remembers", thus begins the movie Badlapur, a story of revenge and shifting moralities aptly set in a fictitious town called... Badlapur. It wastes no time getting to the heart of the matter, and within very first few minutes into the film, you begin to realise this ain't for the faint-hearted. It's not only brutal, shocking and wonderfully shot, it's also the fulcrum around which the movie's thematic concerns turn, setting the stage for a gory revenge-filled leitmotif. Badlapur in spite of this bang of an opening sadly ends with a whimper.

Losing a loved one in your life can be upsetting and difficult to cope up with. Even more so if it's in a senseless act of violence. But is seeking vengeance, being a vigilante justice-seeker, the right panacea to cure your personal loss? Or is it about having a heart big enough to forgive, no matter how painful it is? Stories about revenge and badla in movies are by now a cliché, and Badlapur unfortunately squanders the potential of its brilliant premise to offer an inconsistent psychological portrait of a grief-stricken protagonist who sets out to avenge the perpetrators of a heinous tragedy that kills his wife and their son.

Raghu and Liak, who play the opposites in the moral spectrum of good versus evil, reel from the trauma in their own way, and in the course of time, shift allegiances. The hero, an ordinary man, becomes the anti-hero capable of inflicting untold cruelty. The anti-hero becomes the hero. Director Sriram Raghavan, whose previous film was the box-office turkey Agent Vinod, tries hard to convey a dark, brooding noirish tale of revenge against a shape-shifting backdrop of what's right and what's wrong (something akin to Prisoners), and it works to some extent, thanks to a gritty background score by Sachin-Jigar and an excellent atmospheric cinematography by Anil Mehta.

What doesn't work is its overt misogyny (seriously what's with the treatment of women characters in the film?), its glaring plot contrivances and an overly long narrative that overstays its welcome. If the makers were hoping that brutal scenes of violence, both physical and sexual (I somehow got the feeling that they were included just for shock value and not to further the plot), would distract audiences from noticing the lapses in logic, alas, they don't succeed. The climax, which should have been a cracker of an ending, partly because of its metaphorical allusion to the opening sequence, thus instead fizzles out.