- Gaurav Patki
- 02 April 2019
The 'switch' you weren't expecting!
Script Analysis of Hindi film 'Badlapur'
(Directed by: Sriram Raghavan
Story by: Massimo Carlotto Screenplay & Dialogue by: Sriram Raghavan, Arijit Biswas, Pooja Ladha Surti)
To yearn for revenge, is a raw emotion that every human being experiences at some point of time in life, irrespective of the intensity. Thus, revenge films are always special to watch. More so for noir-film lovers. Badlapur is a revenge story that found takers who would swear by it.
This Sriram Raghavan film offers a gaze at the complexities of its characters in a way that we can’t categorize them as black or white. What happens when the idea of revenge overtakes one’s entire life? Where will it take you? Badlapur doesn’t walk the routine revenge film path, and tries to answer the broader thematic question.
TERA HERO IDHAR HAI
The film begins as a usual revenge flick where a good man is wronged. It begins as RAGHU’s story. Like all of his films, Raghavan opens the film with a crucial scene. He gives a crucial beat of information in the opening scene/sequence through which the audience comes to know what exactly happened and under what circumstances. Providing this information to the audience, while the hero himself is unaware of it almost until the end, is a very conscious call and a crucial one. As the narrative progresses, and especially when we get into Liak's story, we start to realize the importance of the opneing sequence.
So, after the opening scene, we cut to a normal day in our hero's life. Raghu, a middle-class guy who lives happily with his wife and kid, witnesses an upside-down event in his life when his wife and son are killed by two goons after a bank robbery. This shakes him thoroughly. The initial sorrow is later substituted by anger against the robber Liak. Eventually, the anger turns into revenge and then the revenge pervades his life in every possible way. We can say it’s a usual set up for any revenge story where the hero, the villain and the motive for Hero's revenge is established. The writers use this trope successfully to get the audience into the story.
Henceforth, we start to look for a story in which the hero would go after the villain and after a tough fight (literally or figuratively) would eventually get his revenge. Raghu gets on the same journey, but slowly the writers subvert our expectations. By now we are hooked into the hero's emotional need and we are ready to follow him wherever he’s heading. So, when he beats Liak we are with him; he meets Liak’s girlfriend, Jhimli and physically abuses her to get even with Liak; and yet we are still with him.
By now we have understood it's not a typical revenge movie. Even though our hero is blinded by revenge; he still is a common man who doesn't have any supernatural power. The major shift in the story takes place when the court declares Liak's imprisonment for 20 years. Justice is served but our hero hasn't got his closure. Again, Raghu is not that type of a person who will break into the jail to kill Liak. He decides to wait. He buys a house nearby the jail. He starts a whole new life so he can wait till Liak finishes the custody and comes out.
THE SWITCH IN THE NARRATIVE
The significant move in the screenplay is how Liak’s narrative is built (or crafted) and woven. The film begins as Raghu's story. So, in the beginning, we see Liak's story keeping Raghu in reference. Initially, it's a police interrogation and later it's through a private detective’s eye who’s hired by the protagonist. It helps the viewer to keep the protagonist intact in their heads. So, in this period, Liak is still a villain for the viewers but unknowingly they are getting invested in his life as well.
As the imprisonment is announced and Raghu shifts near the jail, he has to wait till Liak comes out. He starts becoming a passive character. The writers take this opportunity to change our perspective. Now we see Liak's life in the jail, his failed attempt to escape, his fight with the other prisoners. After spending dedicated screen-time with Liak, he becomes more than just an antagonist. Audiences’ reference-point starts to shift.
The next significant plot point in the narrative is Liak getting diagnosed with cancer. If Raghu forgives him, Liak can spend his last few days out of jail.
Then a social activist Shobha comes to Raghu, asking for a favour for Liak. Raghu lets him get out of the jail only when he gets the information of Liak’s partner, Harman. Here onwards Raghu starts the action for which he has been waiting for years. Till now we have seen him waiting for the revenge for 15 years!!
The second half is denser in action and plot. The first half is a built-up for this action. Here onwards we start seeing the story of Raghu's vengeance and Liak's attempt to live life in his last few days. By now it's clear for the viewers that it can't be only Raghu’s or Liak’s story. Both of them are on their journeys. On one side, Raghu has a strong motive of vengeance, and on the other side, we see the story of a man (Liak) who is going to die within a year.
Here onwards, it's difficult to say who is right and who is wrong. In fact, Raghu gradually starts crossing the line and turn into a darker character. In the beginning, we were shown that Liak is the real murderer. But after seeing Raghu killing Harman and his wife, and also because of the way he kills them, it becomes more and more difficult to sympathize with him.
On the other hand, we see Liak meeting his mom and also his old lover - Jhimli. He is trying hard to get his share of money from Harman and enjoy his last days with Jhimli but his destiny is tied with Raghu, and Raghu will not let him get the happy ending he desperately wants. When Liak meets Raghu and realizes this, his character starts changing fundamentally.
Writers are usually told to mainly focus on the hero’s journey while writing. In a story, where the hero sets on a journey with an outer motive and the journey changes him internally, the antagonists, other characters, plots, subplots, twists all are tools to help the hero achieve his arc. Badlapur uses the same technique, and yet it manages to explore an arc we weren't expecting.
Like a love story where we see the complementary journeys of both the characters, here, we see the complementary journeys of Raghu and Liak who are helping each other to complete each other's journey in an attempt to achieve their respective external goals.
In the end, Raghu remains imprisoned by ‘revenge’. In the last scene, Jhimli says that he has got a second chance but we are not sure whether he would be able to use it. On the other hand, in the very end, Liak dies but his character gets an emotional closure when he surrenders himself to the police for murdering Harman and his wife. Thus, Liak succeeds in setting himself free.
So, that’s it for Badlapur. Next, I will take up another film to analyse and discuss it’s significant aspects, from a script point of view. My series will focus on some of the mainstream Hindi films of past ten years that are known for good screenwriting. Let me know your views about my observations, or any queries, in the comment box below or email me.
Here's a list of the earlier articles in the series:
1. The right set of characters - Script Analysis of Hindi film 'Wake Up Sid'
2. When the 'telling' overrules the 'story' - Script Analysis of Hindi film 'Kahaani'
3. Being true to the characters and their world - Script Analysis of Hindi film 'Dum Laga Ke Haisha'