On one of Aditi Rao Hydari’s Instagram uploads (from before the release of the film), Rajkummar Rao had commented that the film is looking fab. That’s the problem with the film. It’s only ‘looking’ fab…
Paula Hawkins’ The Girl On The Train is a sensitive novel about a psychologically disturbed woman. Her leading lady (Rachel) has amnesia, she’s going through the aftermath of a divorce and her drinking, obviously, isn’t helping her condition. Tate Taylor’s The Girl On The Train, starring a wonderful Emily Blunt, studies the life of this woman in a psychological-drama-thriller. I’ll be honest, I’m a fan of the novel, but not of the film. I thought the English film, which won Blunt a BAFTA nomination, was mediocre at best. Blunt’s spectacular performance (not her best, though) made the film watchable for me. Sadly, Parineeti Chopra just doesn’t have it in her to make Ribhu Dasgupta’s terrible remake even ‘watchable’.
If you’ve read the book, you know it comes with many challenges to be made into a film. The book is about what goes on within Rachel more than what goes on on the outside. It isn’t about her divorce, her ex-husband, the woman she sees from the train, but rather about how these forces, and her drinking, as victories, of course eventually. Dasgupta’s TGOTT ignores this. It’s okay to make something else out of a novel. It’s an adaptation after all, and not an exact copy. Here, Dasgupta takes the essence out of Hawkin’s story, while he forgets to add his own. What we’re left with is a sloppy crime-thriller that’s suddenly about revenge and not character development. After a point, Dasgupta forgets even the revenge and adds suspense, which, in my opinion, he shouldn’t be very proud of.
In case you don’t know what the film is about, here goes. Mira Kapoor (Chopra) is divorced from her husband (Avinash Tiwary) and is now jobless. It’s been a year since she went back to work (she’s a lawyer) and yet, takes the train from London to the suburbs everyday. While she’s on the train, she looks out at her former home, inhabited by her ex-husband and his new wife. Nusrat (Aditi Rao Hydari) and Anand are their neighbours, and Mira becomes obsessed with how perfect Nusrat’s life is, until it’s not. Days later, there’s a murder and Mira is the prime suspect. This premise works out as a classic whodunnit. But add amnesia and alcoholism to it and it becomes deeper, more layered. While Ribhu Dasgupta uses the amnesia and alcoholism in his film, making his leading lady almost always drunk and forgetting things, he never finds a way to make this film about her psychological problem. It’s always about what she saw and why she shouldn’t have seen it. In fact, about why it shouldn’t have happened.
As if the writing wasn’t sloppy enough, our leading lady just cannot seem to get it. I’m not a very big Parineeti Chopra fan, but she had surprised even me with her performances in Hasee Toh Phasee and Meri Pyaari Bindu. But in what she called a “landmark film” in one of her interviews, she fails to impress in TGOTT. Her performance in the first half is even beyond bad, and while she does improve a little bit in the second half, it’s too late. The damage has been done, and nothing can mend it. Chopra never goes beyond the surface. While the writing of Mira Kapoor (and the entire film) needs to be blamed for the film not working (at least for me), Chopra’s surface level performance furthers the cause. What we needed here was perhaps an actor as layered as Bhumi Pednekar. For now, I’m only worried what Chopra will do in the Saina Nehwal biopic, because let’s be real, that will be an important film.
Other actors – Aditi Rao Hydari, Kirti Kulhari, Avinash Tiwary – are as missing, either from the screen or in potential. Both Rao Hydari and Kulhari are fantastic actors, but here, the former doesn’t get any material (or screen time) to work with and the latter suffers at the hands of an underwritten character. Tiwary has the screen time and decent characterisation for his character, but somehow he cannot make it work. This is not a good performance.
A film that had a novel and an English film as reference points shouldn’t have been this bad, but it is. When I was watching the film, my only thought was that maybe this could pass off as a mediocre film for most people (as did the English film for me), but the Bollywoodization of the climax proved me wrong. The Girl On The Train is proof that song and dance, and over emotional scenes aren’t the cheat codes to Hindi filmmaking.
Starring Parineeti Chopra, Aditi Rao Hydari, Kirti Kulhari, Avinash Tiwary, The Girl On The Train is now streaming on Netflix…
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