The Spanish connection - II

Daniyal Zahid recommends a Netflix binge: watching a Spanish original and its successful Bollywood remake in succession

The Spanish connection - II
Last week we looked back at an unimpressively made Bollywood remake of an epic Oriol Paulo Spanish mystery thriller. This week, instead, we’ll look at an impressively made Bollywood remake of an epic Oriol Paulo Spanish mystery thriller.

Where The Body, a remake of the 2012 critically acclaimed El Cuerpo (or ‘The Body’) faltered, Badla, reprising the 2016 blockbuster Contratiempo (or the English language title ‘The Invisible Guest’), does not.

The glaring divergence in the end product is a result of the minutest of changes in execution, even though both The Body and Badla replicate the exact storylines. The change, without giving out any spoilers, comes in the shape of needlessly under-revealing bits crucial to the final unraveling in the case of the former, something the latter does not indulge in.

Oriol Paulo

Not only is the remake much better executed in the case of Badla-Contratiempo, what is also great is that you can find both the original and the remake on Netflix in Pakistan. Given that both the stories play out identically, the following is more a discussion on Paulo’s original screenplay and the Bollywood adaption than merely a review of any one of those movies.

The storyline narrates a businessperson being arrested for the murder of their lover – Taapsee Pannu, as Naina Sethi, and Tony Luke, as Arjun, respectively in Badla. The entire film works through flashbacks narrated in conversations between the accused and their lawyer, which is played by Amitabh Bachchan as Badal Gupta in the remake.

The story narrates extramarital affairs of the businessperson, which result in blackmail, adding multi-layered motives to the murder. A second death introduces new characters into the mystery, intertwined with the original murder. Amrita Singh, as Rani Kaur, and Tanveer Ghani, as Nirmal Singh Toor, play spouses and parents to the second deceased person, who inadvertently become stakeholders in the original case.

In El Cuerpo, Oriol Paulo unveiled his screenwriting abilities, which have made him one of the most captivating mystery writer in modern filmmaking around the world. While El Cuerpo and Contratiempo remain his best known work, much of that skill is visible in all of his other feature films as well including Los Ojos de Julia, Secuestro and Mirage. The latter is also available on Netflix and stars Alvaro Morte, ‘El Profesor’ of La Casa de Papel – or Money Heist – fame.

Even so, where Oriol Paulo became a global name over the past decade, in Bollywood Sujoy Ghosh has made his mark in the thriller genre. He wrote and directed Kahaani, a masterpiece for the genre, and its sequel. He also produced Te3n, a successful Bollywood remake of the renowned South Korean thriller Montage. And having tasked with the remake of Contratiempo, Ghosh did not disappoint.

As a result Badla has all the thrills of Contratiempo, and was a thoroughly enjoyable, watch even for someone who had seen the original. The strength, again, lies in the remake staying completely true to the original screenplay and not merely the storyline.

What also works more for Badla – as compared to The Body – is the fact that both the casting and the acting was absolutely on point. It doesn’t get much better than Amitabh Bachchan for pretty much any role, but especially so for one as intense as that of the lawyer in Badla.

Taapsee Pannu has increasingly proved herself as a diverse actor, who especially thrives in meaningful roles, even more so in thrillers. Bollywood debutant, Malayalam star, Tony Luke does a formidable job as well, and should have multiple offers in Hindi cinema by now. Amrita Singh too has a role tailor-made for her, while Tanveer Ghani despite having limited screen-time plays his part aptly as well.

Unless you have a revulsion for foreign-language films, or are only interested in South Asian movies, we would advise you to go for Contratiempo before watching Badla. Even if you just watch the latter, you won’t be missing out on any thrills.