Set in the by-lanes of Kolkata, Ribhu Dasgupta’s TE3N, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vidya Balan, is in theatres today. Here’s our review.
Amitabh Bachchan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vidya Balan’s TE3N is this week’s big Bollywood release. Will the Ribhu Dasgupta film make the cut? Here’s our review.
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vidya Balan, Padmavati Rao, Sabyasachi Chakrabarty
Direction: Ribhu Dasgupta
A paraplegic old woman quibbling with her 70-something husband as the Rabindra Sangeet Amar Bela Je Jaaye plays in the background. The familiar mouldy smell of rotten time, a sense of quietly waiting out an endless wait hits you. The tone is set.
Director Ribhu Dasgupta introduces his audience to the wait in one of the most telling scenes in TE3N.
John Biswas (Amitabh Bachchan) goes to the police station every day to check if there’s anything new on his dead granddaughter. Sarita (Vidya Balan) asks John Uncle to stop wasting time at the police station.
Angela, John’s grandchild, was kidnapped eight years ago. The criminal was never caught. Main investigating officer Martin (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is Father Martin now, infusing wit and humour into the otherwise dry church-talk.
Eight years later, the kidnapper strikes again. Will he be caught this time around? Will the old man get the justice that eluded him all those years ago?
Ribhu Dasgupta weaves a poignant tale in his TE3N, and peppers it with edge-of-the-seat sequences. Half an hour into the film, Amitabh Bachchan is a part of your life; his quest for justice, yours. While the narrative is crisp in parts, the story progresses at a lazy pace. The laidbackness soon gets to you, and you want to scream, “Hurry up!” But Dasgupta takes it easy.
The primary cast gifts the film some superlative performances. In the droop of his shoulders, the slight slur in his speech and the noticeable gait, Amitabh Bachchan becomes John Biswas, the grandfather guilty of not being able to take care of his Angela.
The ever-dependable Nawazuddin Siddiqui is cast perfectly; the reluctant Krishna to John’s Arjun. In his slim-fit black shirt, this bullet-riding Father Martin is hardly your average clergyman. Vidya Balan lights up the screen with her Sarita. This feisty policewoman is heading a case which seems to have no solution in sight. And Balan projects the exact amount of frustration on to her character.
Padmavati Rao and Sabyasachi Chakrabarty slip into their characters easily, although the latter does risk going overboard at times.
The strength of TE3N lies in its performances. The weakest part is the writing. The story begins well, but soon you lose track of what is happening because there’s so much happening. Or nothing happening. The ebb and flow of important events in TE3N is not handled well. Also, it doesn’t help that the viewer can crack the biggest twist in the tale way before the filmmaker reveals it. It is disappointing considering what the film could have been, had the major issues been paid a bit more attention to.
At 2 hours 16 minutes, the film seems to stretch on till eternity. TE3N suffers from sloppy editing, but more than compensates for it in the cinematography. Through Tushar Kanti Ray’s lens, Kolkata is a city struggling to stay standing. The old-age charm of the City of Joy is captured in all its glory. It hides its secrets well, be it in the crumbling walls of the buildings or the idol immersion at the Nimtala Ghat. The chiaroscuro of the by-lanes of Kolkata make you oddly nostalgic.
The background score and music blends well with the story, but makes no impact on the mind. No particular song stays on in the mind once you’re done with TE3N.
During the shooting of TE3N, many thought it was a sequel to Kahaani. That 2012 film by Sujoy Ghosh which still gives goose bumps to people. The confusion, in retrospect, wasn’t without reason. Ribhu Dasgupta’s TE3N is reminiscent of Kahaani, mainly because of the mysterious manner Kolkata is portrayed in.
TE3N, however, is no Kahaani. It is at best a hotchpotch of a film that could have been so much better. Watch it though. For the brilliant acting.