Badlapur: Don’t Miss The Beginning….Noir has its limits

MUMBAI: If the title of the film makes you wonder why the tagline is part of the name, it could be because similar titles are not allowed by the producers’ associations and their title registration committee (Badlapur Boys was a recent release). Or, it could be just a smart move because if you miss the beginning, Badalpur will make no sense to you. The cause of what follows relates to the events right at the start.

Badlapur is a noir film where the hero is the anti-hero taking same route as the criminals who destroyed him. He blurs the line between good and bad. The story has a touch of James Hadley Chase and films like Ittefaq (1969) or the recent one, Ek Villain. 

Varun Dhawan is a well settled ad agency executive. Having married his college beau, he has a cute son. His family is everything to him. He is just getting over a presentation for a campaign for a bra when shattering news reaches him. His son and his wife, Yami Gautam, were taken as shields by a bank robber duo, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vinay Pathak. This robbers had not planned on an escape vehicle and have taken Yami’s car along with her and their son. 

As a traffic cop is an eyewitness, soon the police posse follows the duo. In the process, the child falls out of the car and not being able to control Yami, Nawazuddin shoots her. While Pathak makes a run for it with the money and gun, Nawazuddin is nabbed. Even while he keeps saying he is just a driver and the other guy killed Yami, he is read a sentence of 20 years in jail. Neither the police nor a private detective engaged by Varun can find out who his partner was. 

Producers: Dinesh Vijan, Sunil Lulla.

Director: Sriram Raghvan.

Cast: Varun Dhawan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Yami Gautam, Vinay Pathak, Huma Quereshi, Radhika Apte, Pratima Kazmi

Varun now has no cause more important than to get the culprits. A one-minute scene with his family and in-laws fails to convince him to start anew. He shifts bag and baggage to Badlapur where Nawazuddin is jailed for twenty years. Also, he has to find the other culprit. This is a long-winded process which you traverse together with the narration. Nawazuddin is right in front of him but there is nothing Varun can do to get his hands on him; Pathak’s whereabouts are not known.

Varun goes about it clinically, approaching Nawazuddin’s mother and prostitute girlfriend, Huma Qureshi, to glean any information he can. Nobody seems to know anything about the second criminal until a situation is created in the script when Varun helps Pathak’s wife, stranded on a deserted road one night with a flat tyre. The same liberty with the script could have been taken a bit sooner to keep the narration pacey. Varun is now on Pathak’s trail.

As for Nawazuddin, Divya Dutta comes out of the blue to sort things out for Varun. She is a social worker who helps to resettle criminals. Nawazuddin has been in the cell for 15 years now, making futile attempts to escape time and again. He is now ailing with cancer with a year to live at best. Divya wants Varun to issue a pardon note in his favour so he is freed and can live a year the way he wants. 

Nawazuddin’s mother also comes to Varun with same plea. He agrees in exchange for the name of the other culprit which happens to be the husband of the woman with a flat tyre he helped one night.

Sriram Raghvan has based his film on a crime story by Italian writer, Massimo Carlotto, and he is in his element with his favourite kind of cinema. However, Nawazuddin seeking redemption rather than revenge in the climax may disappoint lovers of commercial entertainment. The film has excellent cinematography and the background score complements the proceedings. Music as far as songs go, does not work; the film could very well have done without them. Editing needed to be brisker.   

As for the performances, Nawazuddin is outstanding and at his most natural. Varun shows he can deliver even while not playing a song and dance role. The girls, Yami Gautam, Huma Qureshi, Radhika Apte and Pratima Kazmi, though having little to do justify their apt casting. Vinay Pathak is fair.

Badlapur: Don’t Miss The Beginning, being the genre it is, has limited its prospective audience. The film has opened to tepid response, too.

Qissa: The Tale Of A Lonely Ghost - One for the festivals

Qissa: The Tale Of A Lonely Ghost (Punjabi) is a film made to earn accolades from the world audience as well as the discerning audience and the student of cinema in India. The film’s genre can’t be easily defined as it moves from India's partition to male desire for a boy child to supernatural to a story of two star-crossed girls. Since the story revolves around a Sikh family, the language used is Punjabi to keep the flavour of the narration natural.

Producers: Heimatfilm, Augustus Film, Ciné-Sud Promotion, National Film Development Corporation of India (NFDC).

Director: Anup Singh.

Cast: Irrfan Khan, Tisca Chopra, Tillotama Shome, Rasika Duggal.

Irrfan Khan is a de-stabilised Sikh who migrates safely to Punjab on the Indian side with his wife and daughters during the partition. He is an MCP who craves for a son this time when wife, Tisca Chopra, becomes pregnant again. He already has three daughters. 

It has been four years since the partition but now Khan is a very successful timber contractor with a lavish mansion for his residence. The fourth child is born but an attempt has been made to keep the gender a secret from the viewer though it's not tough to fathom this is a girl again. For a moment you are made to believe Khan will kill her. Not so. He decides to believe and pretend this is a boy and rears her as such. The girl, Tillotama Shome, is the apple of his eye as he enrols her for physical training as well as wrestling practice. He also takes her on hunting expeditions. His wife, Tisca goes along with the charade.

The girl is now 12 and puberty knocks she spots blood on her bed. Khan wants her to keep mum about it! The pretence goes on till Shome and another girl, Rasika Duggal, get entwined. Duggal, a gypsy girls falls for Shome and so does Shome forgetting in her pretence that she too is a girl. Shome has molested Duggal and both their parents are witness. Khan suggests a marriage between the two. This is where the plot gets complicated. Shome is left to fend for herself in this situation. 

But, Khan has an obsession with a male name bearer for the family and one night, he tries to force himself on Duggal to give her a male child, which Shome can’t. Shome adores her father but not enough to tolerate him forcing himself on Duggal; she shoots her father with the very double barrel he gifted her and taught her to use.

The film enters a new chapter, it goes on to become a supernatural saga. Khan’s desire for a male heir does not let his soul rest; he is now a ghost haunting his old house. He somehow wants his ‘son’ Shome’s wife, Duggal to bear a son!

Meanwhile, Shome suffers a lot as the woman in her wants to surface and she can’t keep up with the pretence anymore. She exhibits her femininity for the whole village to see. When the villagers want to hunt her down, Khan enters her body with a purpose to indulge Duggal and, finally, produce a male child. 

The thing about Qissa is that, after a while, it may look bizarre and morbid. Good of the makers not to indulge in same sex scenes while there was ample scope or, at least, not in the Indian version (after all, NFDC is involved). 

The film is excellent technically with international names in its credits. Director is gutsy to take up this subject but then such a film is all about making a name, not money. The technical aspects sure are a lesson for a student of cinema. 

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