Remakes vs Original: Badla and Contratiempo

There are some spoilers. You are strongly suggested to watch the film so that you can concur with me (preferably, or you may not, completely up to you).

We have remakes of films that Big B has acted in. A film where he is in the remake? Interesting isn't it? So here it is, my views on the remake (Badla, 2019) and the original Contratiempo (The Invisible Guest, 2016).

After I learnt that this too is a remake of a Spanish film I did some research. Interestingly, the director of this Spanish remake and the other film (The Body) is the same. It is interesting that one of the remakes is a well-directed one and the other just an inept attempt.

Let us dive right into the plot of the film. A young mother, Naina (Tapsee Pannu) who recently became the Businessperson of the Year, is convicted of murdering her lover in a hotel at a far off place in the UK. There is no trace of anyone else other than the couple in the room and she thinks that she is being framed. Enter Badal Aggarwal (Amitabh Bachchan), who takes up this case to turn the tables in favour of Naina, even though everything is against her in the case. In his illustrious career spanning 40 years, he has never lost a case and doesn't intend to lose this one either (of course, otherwise, how would you establish that he is the best in the job?). He wants the truth - the details as he calls it - and she wants to be free. They have three hours within which Mr Badal (do you see the juxtaposition of the letters?) with the help of the inputs from Naina would help her win the fight. Promising.

What ensues further reminds one a little bit of Memento (2000) with the way we keep revisiting the incidents. Don't worry, there is nothing in this film that would leave you scratching your head. There are three versions of the actual sequence of incidents that we hear. Each of these, have some questions, a few answers and fewer aha moments. Till the first reveal, the film runs like any other thriller with the necessary elements of a thriller. By the time we reach the final reveal, strangely I am not surprised? Strange, isn't it? That is where the writing lets you down.

Up until the second version of the story, the narration has its moments of a good thriller. But even by then, there are a few things that just feel like unnecessary insertions to make the film cross the 1 hour run time. The inherent compulsion (almost obsessive) of Badal to quote the Mahabharat - mostly thrust in to bring a moral side to the film - is jarring. Why do we need to go to our epics to moral police the characters - isn't it outdated? By the time the film ended, I had these questions in mind: Why am I not surprised by the climax? Is it so easy to impersonate Big B?

Now, to the performances. When Amitabh Bachchan is roped in for a film, power is guaranteed. If he is paired with Taapsee Pannu, the film is bound to raise your expectations. After watching their performances in Pink (2016) I was naturally looking forward to this. However, thanks to the final reveal - which leaves you gasping in disbelief - I was let down. The casting was good. Taapsee as Naina shines in the way she portrays the damsel in distress and the conniving fox. Each of the actors played out their characters with equal panache, however, the way some of them were written was disappointing. The lackadaisical approach to the way the supporting characters were written left little or no scope for the good cast. Especially, the characters of Rani Kaur (Amrita Singh) and Nirmal Singh Toor (Tanveer Ghani) did a great job in bringing the required depth to the motives. However, they had their time on the screen was so less that I wanted more which had all the potential to spice up the narrative of the film.

Let's go to the original, Contratiempo (Literally meaning setback) now. Here, the roles are reversed. A husband is convicted of murdering his lover in a hotel. The lawyer is a woman who has the same amount of experience and might in the courtroom. This is exactly what makes it stronger than its remake. The characters are well written and the suspense elements really pump up the narrative. What's more? The lawyer doesn't feel the need to quote the Bible or something every second line of her dialogue! In fact, there is only one dialogue which talks about redemption and it perfectly is in sync with the narrative. The performances were tight and there is seldom a dull moment. Since the casting is its greatest strength, there is no unpleasant surprise in the end. I guess, the director, Sujoy Ghosh, decided to reverse the roles in the remake because

  1. There would be scope for Big B in the film, which is any day a money minting machine and/or

  2. The sentiment of the mother works stronger here than the father.

However, the original is far better than the remake. Both of these films are available on Netflix. Go and watch them (the original first, preferably, because, someone said, "Learn from others' mistakes, you may not live long enough to make yours") and leave your thoughts in the comments below or at the forum section where we could talk about it.

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