Badlapur Review - Joy Not Celebration

Actors: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Varun Dhawan
Director: Sriram Raghavan

Badlapur is cause for joy but not celebration.

One of the rare movies to emerge out of the Bollywood cesspool that does not induce vomit, Badlapur sadly fails to rise to the dramatic heights of a memorable film.

Badlapur is cause for joy but not for full-fledged celebration.

Eschewing the familiar claptrap of moronic romcoms that Indians never tire of watching, Badlapur drives down the highway of revenge.

But the revenge road that director Sriram Raghavan embarks on accompanied by his two main actors (Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Varun Dhawan) seems like a half-hearted, timid exercise.

Nawazuddin Shines

No matter what you may have heard about Varun Dhawan's remarkable portrayal of the hero Raghu, the real star and joy of this film is Nawazuddin Siddiqui who plays a hardcore criminal.

Nawazuddin belongs to the thin cadre of exceptional Indian actors like Irrfan Khan, Naseeruddin Shah and Pankaj Kapoor who are dedicated to the craft and leave an impression in any role.

When a bank robbery committed by Liak (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and his pal Harman (Vinay Pathak) goes terribly awry killing ad executive Raghu's wife and young son and with the police close on their heels, the thieves split with Harman jumping out of the car with the loot.

Brutal police thrashings, a stiff prison sentence, humiliating ordeals of prison life, multiple failed escape attempts and bouts of solitary confinement notwithstanding, Liak keeps a tight lip on the identity of his accomplice who has the bank loot.

In prison and later outside, Nawazuddin delivers a solid performance as the duplicitous criminal with none of the melodramatic overacting characteristic of Indian movie villains.

The killings of his wife and son leave Raghu (and director Sriram Raghavan???) in such a daze that you don't see the meticulous revenge plot happening.

Subtlety and understatment are badly needed virtues in the crass world of Bollywood films but in a Badlapur like revenge drama they seem overdone.

Like his talentless director father David Dhawan who made a lucrative career out of peddling trash, Varun Dhawan does not amount to much.

For the most part of the film, the younger Dhawan goes around with a single, grim expression. If a forbidding visage were the yardstick of acting, Varun Dhawan would win the Oscar hands down.

There are other letdowns too like the mediocre soundtrack.

Despite the passage of 15 years, we don't see much signs of aging in the key characters.

Putting a beard on Varun Dhawan does not make him older by 15 years.

The story (by Sriram Raghavan and Arijit Biswas) leaves the girls (Yami Gautam, Huma Quresh, Radhika Apte and Pratima Kazmi) to be content playing third fiddle to the two main protagonists Raghu and Liak. But within the confines of small roles, they do alright, particularly Pratima Kazmi as Liak's mother.

Badlapur is easily a rare watchable exception to the Bollywood drivel that descends on us with monotonous frequency.

I'd say it's worth braving the icy weather of Northern Virginia this weekend to see Badlapur.