Movie review: Badlapur is intense Bollywood tale of revenge

In Badlapur, Varun Dhawan plays a man whose wife and son were killed in a bank robbery. -- PHOTO: SCREENS OF BOMBAY TALKIES
In Badlapur, Varun Dhawan plays a man whose wife and son were killed in a bank robbery. -- PHOTO: SCREENS OF BOMBAY TALKIES

Review Thriller

BADLAPUR (M18)

135 minutes/Now showing/****

The story: Fifteen years after the death of his wife and young son in a bank robbery gone wrong, Raghu (Varun Dhawan) is bent on revenge. The unresolved case has seen only one of the two robbers arrested. Raghu is determined to find closure by getting even with the only lead in the police files - a small-time crook named Liak (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). He leaves his successful life in the city behind and finds a run-down home in a city aptly named Badlapur. Badla means revenge.

From the word go, it is apparent director Sriram Raghavan is going to hit you in the gut with this brutal, riveting thriller and leave you with very little time to recover between scenes.

Based on a story by Italian crime writer Massimo Carlotto, it stands out for the complex range of emotions it brings to the screen. At the heart of the story is an exploration of the intensity of violence even the most seemingly normal human beings are capable of when pushed against the wall. It blurs the lines between heroes and villains and, as a blood trail thickens, it makes you question the very futility of revenge.

Holding the pacy story together are absolutely amazing performances by Dhawan and Siddiqui.

Full credit goes to Siddiqui for his portrayal of Liak, the perfect counter-foil to the deeply disturbed Raghu. Both he and Dhawan are naturals on screen, but it is Siddiqui who has viewers' emotions on a roller-coaster. Much as you want to hate him for his manipulative and devious ways, it is hard not to. He takes on bullies in jail with absolute charm and wit and portrays a tender side when his lover Jhimli (Huma Querishi), a prostitute, comes to meet him.

More important, there is enough intensity in both actors and enough complexity in the plot - and a good number of twists in an otherwise predictable Bollywood - to remind us about life and its many unresolved ways.

Expectations were not riding high as the director had delivered the forgettable film Agent Vinod in 2012. He bounces back with a film that is bound to do the rounds of film festivals and Bollywood's many award circuits.

It is said revenge is a slow boil best served cold, but Badlapur will leave viewers feeling all charged up and perhaps even deeply conflicted about the characters they just encountered on the screen.