REVIEW / THRILLER
136 minutes/Opens today/ 4 stars
The story: John Biswas (Amitabh Bachchan), whose granddaughter was kidnapped, police officer Sarita Sarkar (Vidya Balan) and cop-turned-priest Father Martin Das (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) investigate the kidnapping of a child who was taken under similar circumstances as Biswas' granddaughter.
This remake of the 2013 South Korean film Montage is a suspenseful thriller with a trifecta of arguably the best dramatic actors in Bollywood leading the charge.
In Te3n (Three in Hindi), eight years after the kidnapping and death of his granddaughter Angela, Biswas continues making daily trips to the police station as the perpetrator remains at large.
He tells police officer Sarkar that he does this for his wife's peace of mind, but it slowly unfolds that he does it more for himself, obsessing over clues and memories left behind.
He also seeks the help of Father Martin Das, who left the force and joined the church out of an overwhelming sense of guilt over failing to save Angela.
Whether it is watching old VHS tapes of time spent with his granddaughter or visiting her grave, Bachchan as Biswas is a heartbreaking image of a broken, middle-class man desperately clinging on to a lost cause.
But when another child is kidnapped, with the perpetrator employing the same modus operandi as in Angela's case, Father Martin returns to his police roots to help Sarkar solve the case. Meanwhile, Biswas chances upon new clues that he pursues without help from the authorities.
The comparisons to mystery thriller Kahaani (2012) are unavoidable. Both are set in Kolkata and both feature Balan and Siddiqui. Te3n was also produced by Sujoy Ghosh, Kahaani's director. Film-maker Ribhu Dasgupta helms this production instead, mirroring Ghosh's pacing and documentary- style action and editing.
While both films are solid dramas which keep you guessing, the addition of Bachchan is a masterstroke. The three heavyweight actors together prove to be a stellar casting combination. While Balan brings a resilience and vulnerability to her police officer role, Siddiqui's guilt-ridden pastor has his inner battle with his demons etched on his face.
It is also the first time Siddiqui shares the screen with Bachchan and their on-screen relationship feels natural and lived-in.
At over two hours long, the film could do with fewer shots of Biswas moping about. As seems to be the requirement for a commercial Bollywood film, songs are also inserted here - to incongruous effect.
Still, the thriller is a refreshingly quiet yet action-packed addition to the usual slate of glossy Bollywood blockbusters.