The above number isn’t my film rating. Instead, it denotes that out of the 21 South-Asian-centric titles I have reviewed on the Netflix platform, I have found five to be an absolute delight. On the eve of the release of ‘The Girl on the Train,’ starring the talented Parineeti Chopra, I was confident of the above number would be moving in a positive direction.
Distributed by Netflix, The Girl on the Train is a Bollywood crime thriller that follows the life of Mira Kapoor (Parineeti Chopra), a successful lawyer in London, whose life takes a nosedive after an accident resulting in her divorce from her husband, Shekhar Kapoor (Avinash Tiwary) that leads to Mira becoming an alcoholic. While Mira has nothing to look forward to, she finds purpose in her daily commute by observing Nusrat John (Aditi Rao Hydari), who lives in a house that her train passes by. However, Mira observes something unusual on Nusrat’s balcony that forms the film’s plot, which introduces another essential character, Inspector Dalbir Kaur Bagga (Kirti Kulhari).
Before I talk about the actors’ performance, I think it is essential to talk about the film’s genesis. This is a Hindi adaptation of the Hollywood film The Girl on the Train (2016) starring Emily Blunt, which was adapted from the book The Girl on the Train (2015) by Paula Hawkins. Let’s take a look at what made this franchise famous.
The book became famous by piggybacking on Gone Girl‘s success (an American novel adapted into a David Fincher film). Both the books are written from the point of view of an unreliable woman narrator. Additionally, both books went on to be adapted into movies starring prominent female actors. ‘The Girl on the Train’ book was elevated when Emily Blunt gave a stellar performance that earned her a BAFTA nomination for the role. Chopra mentioned that she looked up to Blunt‘s performance as a reference. Thus, the comparison of their performances are inevitable.
Coming back to the latest Hindi re-adaptation of the book, I felt the film’s storytelling was choppy at times. A few scenes were added only to fill-in a purpose rather than helping build the character arc. One of those scenes is when Mira is part of an alcoholic anonymous group. She spoon feeds the audience of the reason behind her despair. However, the group is never mentioned again. Similarly, the film conveniently uses Mira’s amnesia to cover up the plot’s intriguing part only to cure the amnesia later on without any medication. We notice the involvement of Scotland Yard in solving the case. However, the film portrays the world’s sharpest police force as incompetent. So much so, that we see Mira escape the cops only to walk freely in the streets of London to find her way to redemption. Mira even visits the crime scene to gather evidence and visits a church, but is never caught by Scotland Yard. Ribhu Dasgupta, the director, decided to shoot the film on location in London to reflect the novel’s authenticity. However, I wonder if it added any value to the film. This could have been set in any part of the world and it wouldn’t have made any difference to the storyline. From excessive dialogues to purposeless songs, the film does not do justice to create a platform for the actors to shine.
Coming to the actors, I am a fan of the entire cast of this film. However, due to the film’s lackluster aspect, none of the actors were able to stand out. Having said that, there are certain aspects in which Chopra shines. However, there were a few moments when we see Chopra leaning towards commercial acting with loud hand gestures and incessant dialogues. If we compare Chopra‘s performance to that of Blunt‘s, we notice that Blunt uses restraint and moderation to convey her vulnerability, whereas Chopra does not. Tiwary does his best in complimenting Chopra while they share the same screen, but he seems to be limited in his space. I feel bad for Hydari and Kulhari because despite being two powerful actors, the script does not have enough meat for the audience to get vested into their characters.
Overall, Netflix’s streak of curating disappointing Indian content continues making my tally – 5/22.
Reviewed by Puneet Ruparel