Synopsis – A grandfather, police officer and a priest join hands to investigate and find a missing child.
My Take – Its good to see South Korean thrillers finally getting the attention they deserve. Being a fan of their genre films for a couple of years now, I can say their writing, direction & acting skills are on a different plain of existence in comparison to Hollywood films of the similar genre (forget about Bollywood competing in the same league). With their growing popularity (thanks to the internet) in the current generation, it was high time Indian film makers would decide to remake (most of the time just blandly lift) them to skim money from the unsuspecting audience. While I must say two films in particular (weirdly both star Emraan Hashmi & directed by Mohit Suri) – Awarapan (A Bitter Sweetlife) & Murder 2 (The Chaser) play off the originals and atleast try to add in to the ingredients. For the rest of the list it cannot be said the same, for example the recently released Do Lafzon Ki Kahani (Always), Zinda (Old Boy), Ek Villain (I Saw the Devil), Ugly Aur Pagli (My Sassi Girl), Rocky Handsome (The Man from Nowhere), Jazbaa (Seven Days) to name a few are just bad. However this thriller (a remake of the awesome Montage) has won half the battle just by achieving the perfect casting coup consisting of Amitabh Bachchan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vidya Balan.
Now only if producer Sujoy Ghosh and director Ribhu Dasgupta had only worked harder on making the screenplay taut and effectively evocative, the result would have been phenomenal! Don’t get me wrong considering how thrillers are made most of the time in Bollywood, this is very well made and most of the things here are above sea level, but I think we can expect a little more from the makers of Kahaani. The story follows John Biswas (Amitabh Bachchan), an old man whose eight-year-old granddaughter Angela was kidnapped and killed in 2007. Over the next eight years, Biswas relentlessly pursues police officer Martin Das (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) who handled his case, determined to persuade him not to give up on finding the kidnapper whose trail had apparently long gone cold. Angela’s death had a profound impact on Das too. He handles his trauma – or perhaps tries to escape his sense of guilt – by leaving the force to become a Christian priest. In 2015 when Biswas arrives at his church with a clue to the whereabouts of the kidnapper/s, Fr Martin Das urges him for the nth time to heal rather than rake up an old wound. Biswas is undeterred, of course. Meanwhile, Das’ curiosity is piqued when another kidnapping takes place and his old friend, police officer Sarita Sharma (Vidya Balan), asks for help with the investigation because of the similarities between the two cases. If you have seen the South Korean thriller Montage, then you do not need this cautionary note as this film is to be watched with rapt attention. No loo breaks, no glances at your cellphone. This film is a tale of loss, redemption & revenge. Its easy to sympathize with its aged protagonist & his never-ending quest to the find the culprit who took away his granddaughter from him, but a guilt-driven cop turned priest or a super cop for that matter, come across as cardboard characters. The mystery is nicely build up in the first-hour, although the sluggish pace does get bothersome. The second-hour unfolds on much speed, and speeds up well for the final twist. Frankly, the first-hour works, despite the problem of its pace, but the second-hour, despite speed somehow, lacks the bite. Considerable footage is devoted to presenting Bachchan as a defeated old man who walks with his shoulders touching his chest and moves as though he might be recovering from a stroke. Like the aging grouch from Clint Eastwood’s later-day films, John rarely smiles and keeps his mouth open almost all the time. The best part of “Who-Done-It” thrillers are the excitement, curiosity and anxiety that will help you keep engaged and the twist in the end will surprise as well satisfy you. But the clear villain of the film is director Ribhu Dasgupta’s refusal to step on the accelerator. I understand he clearly has a deep understanding of the film’s milieu and wants to explore all the elements of the already excellent script piece by piece, but by doing so the films pace ends up being uneven which may hamper the attention of the general audience.
There are no high-speed car chases, screeching tyres and high-decibel shootouts anywhere in sight. This is not that kind of film. The simmering treatment is designed to unite viewers with Biswas’ frustration, to help us understand why he takes so many risks to attain closure. It is almost impossible to shake off the fingers of fear that grip the heart as he appears to repeatedly endanger himself in his quest for the truth. And when the big oh moment arrives without drumbeats and trumpeters, it is hard not to share his anguish and sense of helplessness. Yet, in a measure of the film’s strengths that, in the overall analysis, these complaints recede into the background. It is so wonderful to see director Sujoy Ghosh who gave us Kahaani, backing this film as a producer. Ribhu Dasgupta’s film is a strong, entertaining whodunit, so lovely in its sadness and so thoroughly engaging in its observations on old age, escapism, persistence, love and revenge. The locations of the city Kolkata, shot by Tushar Kanti Ray, proves to be an evocative setting for the film, and the locations provide gorgeous backdrops for John’s mission. Symbolism abounds in an early Durga Puja sequence and the scenes in the church and a mosque where John finds a vital lead, but prayers need to be followed by action to be effective. The film is also a consummate example of excellent acting by Amitabh Bachchan, Vidya Balan & Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Amitabh Bachchan continues his reign supreme over the Indian film industry, going from strength to strength, reinventing and surpassing himself time and again. Nawaz is always a fit-into-all. Vidya Balan is simply magnificent though her screen time is a little less. Sabyasachi Chakrabarti plays his part well. On the whole, ‘Te3n’ is an absorbing dark thriller with excellent performances slightly let down by an uneven screen play.
Directed – Ribhu Dasgupta
Rated – PG15
Run Time – 146 minutes