In Badlapur, Dhawan plays Raghav, a man with a small happy family - a wife (Gautam) and a little son. A sudden random crime wrenches away that happiness. Badlapur then shows us how Raghav deals with this tragedy and his need to extract revenge from the perpetrators.
If you've seen the trailer, you know that the film gets pretty gory. Given that this was a Sriram Raghavan film, I was pretty sure that this thriller would be worth the watch. And I wasn't wrong. Like his other films, Badlapur has a pretty strong screenplay, and the film flows smoothly. The action is spare and taut. The characters, even the minor ones, are layered and nuanced with little flecks of back-story and emotion, and that takes this film to a whole new level. The film builds up pretty well, although I was not wholly convinced by the unpredictable ending - it got a little too glib and filmy for me.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the small-time psychopathic criminal Liak is fabulous - but then that was expected. The big surprise here is Dhawan, for whom this is quite a departure since he's done run-of-the-mill lover-boy roles up till now. As Raghav, Dhawan portrays a man who loses it after the tragedy. When the time comes, Raghav, deadened by grief, shows no compunction or mercy. I'm quite impressed by Dhawan's acting here because not only does he bring intensity and simmering rage to his portrayal, but he also depicts Raghav with the cold calm demeanor of one who has nothing more to lose. He makes the portrayal stick.
Badlapur also benefits from having other wonderful actors in smaller roles. There's Vinay Pathak as Harman, Liak's partner in crime. Huma Qureshi is Jhimli, Liak's prostitute girlfriend, and Divya Dutta is Shobha, a social worker. There's Pratima Kazmi as Liak's mother, Kumud Mishra (who was also in Rockstar) as the sharp-eyed Inspector, and Radhika Apte (you saw her in Shor In The City) as Harman's wife. Then there are the blink-and-you'll-miss-them roles, and even for these, stalwarts like Ashwini Khalsekhar and Zakir Hussain have been roped in.
Badlapur is not your average Bollywood fun flick. The hero doesn't quite fit the cliched mould, and the film in its graphic, gory violence seems inspired by Korean movies. Still, it's pretty well done, and a must watch.