REVIEW: In the opening scene, a huffing-puffing Mira is constantly looking over her shoulders as a pitch-black car – a favourite prop with mystery filmmakers – tails her from the shopping centre she was at to her family home with cardiologist partner Shekhar (Avinash Tiwary). “Don’t take up the case. Or you will face consequences,” dares the note, which was hurled at the window just seconds after Mira slams the door shut. The fearless prosecutor drags them to court anyway and wins. Ribhu Dasgupta’s bombastic introduction to the central character is both a testament and a stark contrast to Mira Kapoor’s glorious repertoireand her overall past. The lady knows it, too, and this is primarily the reason why she is obsessing over her ex-husband – begging to take her back one moment, cussing the next – until she finds Nusrat John as her next subject of fixation. “Mujhe apne favourite ghar ko dekhna achha lagta hain… kisiki life itni perfect kaise hosakti hain? Koi itna khush kaise ho sakta hain?” Mira murmurs to herself. Mira is everything Nusrat is not – deranged, alcoholic, and supposedly violent. But, didn’t we all learn that a perfect life is just as big a myth as Santa Claus on Christmas? Sure enough, Nusrat shatters Mira’s idea of being the idle woman when she is locked in an intense embrace with her psychiatrist Dr. Hamid (Tota Roy Chowdhury). Two days later, Nusrat turns up dead and Mira is the prime suspect. This Hindi adaptation of British author Paula Hawkins’ debut novel by the same name retains the element of gloom and goth that this psychological thriller has catapulted to success for over the years.
The last time this mystery was made into a full-blown feature film, British acting royalty Emily Blunt had bagged an Emmy nomination for it. So it comes as no surprise really that an otherwise bankable Parineeti Chopra fumbles her way through the first half of the narrative – the screams, hollering and manic episodes lack sincerity. Parineeti had big shoes to fill; we get it. However, the diegesis, the actress’s command over Mira’s mannerisms and the overall flow of the story gains momentum in the second half and the climax – partially foreseeable if you stare hard – satiates the viewers’ thirst for a good murder mystery and all the ingredients that serve as prerequisite to conjure one up.
Ribhu Dasgupta is no novice in the psychological thriller genre – his debut was Anurag Kashyap-backed ‘Michael – and has toured the film festival circuit back in 2011. Clearly, with ‘The Girl On The Train’, the intent was to add drama and a dumbfounding twist to its much discussed ending. He succeeds to a reasonable degree. The protagonist also being the narrator can be a risky plunge to take but hey! Here it does what it’s set out to do: render gravitas to a story that’s already been widely read and discussed.
In Ribhu’s version of GOTT, the parallel charcters are just as impactful and have a seamless way of pushing the plotline forward. For one, as Scotland Yard’s top cop, a turban-clad Kirti Kulhari is ballsy and no-bullshit personified: she brings conviction to the character of Detective Bagga. Likewise, Aditi Rao Hydari, in her brief appearance, is all things nice and normal and a breather from the otherwise dark and warped world of the Kapoors or anyone for that matter. Avinash Tiwary is the former spouse of Mira and a hint of normalcy in her life (or not). The actor, even in his second lead performance, has shown immense range as the abused and abuser.
A lot of the grim and menace looming over the protagonist’s conflicted life comes from the costume and hair & make-up department – you know, the kohl-rimmed eyes, the kohl-smeared eyes, grey cardigans and black trenchcoats. So, a big shout-out to costume designers Sanam Ratansi and Subodh Srivastava and MUAs Frina Mehta, Pratap, Tripti Singh and Mitali Vakil. Sunil Nigvekar builds on that eery feeling by erecting beautiful homes and lonely apartments side by side – juxtaposed as an ode to the murk within and outside. At close to two hours, Sangeeth Varghese’s editing remains tout and to the point. Well, give or take a few. The film’s music – by Gilad Benamram and Chandan Saxena – is a downer in the sense that it takes away from the seriousness of the plot, especially during crucial scenes when the emotions are heightened and the story, at its intense best. However, Chandan Saxena’s background score softens that blow: stirring when needed, toned down when not.
‘The Girl On The Train’ is an earnest effort at reconstructing what is perceived as a cult-classic-in-the-making and the hard work the entire cast & crew has put in is palpable. A lit more unabashed approach – like losing the love ballads and that disc song – coupled with sharper snipping tools could have made this rendition Bollywood’s befitting answer to Tate Taylor’s Hollywood adaptation. We are afraid its almost there but not quite yet.