Mumbai: The ghost of Kahaani romps around unmistakably in Te3n, an intense, psychologically engaging crime drama. After all not only Sujoy Ghosh the producer of this film, it is also, like the earlier film, set in Kolkata.
But this smartly packaged adaptation of the 2013 Korean hit Montage bears a sufficiently strong stamp of originality. The film is, moreover, enlivened by fine performances by the three principal members of the cast led by Amitabh Bachchan. Director Ribhu Dasgupta’s sophomore effort his first film, Michael, starring Naseeruddin Shah and also set in Kolkata, slipped through the cracks of Mumbai’s distribution system and never saw light of day is marked by an impressive sense of place and human emotion.
That is not to suggest that everything in Te3n is near-perfect. But what the film lacks by way of substance is amply made up for by the flawless camerawork (Tushar Kanti Ray) and the pace-enhancing editing (Gairik Sarkar). A schoolgirl is kidnapped for ransom. The crime has a tragic end and the victim’s grandfather, John Biswas (Amitabh Bachchan), takes it upon himself to bring the perpetrator to book.
Eight years on that is the point at which the curtain goes up on the story the septuagenarian is still at it, determined not to give up until his mission is accomplished. The police officer is charge of the case, Sarika Sarkar (Vidya Balan), and John’s ailing wife Nancy (Padmavati Rao) exhort him to move on with his life. Their entreaties have no effect on him.
Another key figure in this thriller is Father Martin, a policeman-turned-priest whose life took a dramatic turn when John’s granddaughter went missing and he took the rap for botching up the rescue. Now, eight years on, both John and Martin get a chance to rid themselves of their overwhelming sense of guilt when the kidnapper strikes again and all the clues link the latest crime to the past one.
The victim this time around is another child, grandson of an old man (Sabyasachi Chakraborty), who spends his days nursing a daughter with a heart condition. The renewed hunt for the kidnapper launched by Sarita Sarkar draws into its vortex all the key characters amid a string surprising twists and turns.
Te3n does not depend on conventional narrative momentum for effect. It relies instead on subtle cat-and-mouse games that lead up to an intriguing, if somewhat predictable, climax. The film is made all the more riveting by the quality of the acting. Amitabh Bachchan throws all his weight behind etching out the troubled but tenacious character of John Biswas. The result is often spellbinding.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui, as effortless as ever, is pitch perfect. Vidya Balan, despite being saddled with a role that probably needed a little more writing, holds her own amid the two bravura acts. Te3n is an edgy, intelligent thriller that proffers more than just superficial thrills. It abjures the conventions of the genre and delivers a cinematic experience that is rich and rewarding. While the storytelling is top notch for the most part, in technical terms, too, Te3n belongs right up there with the best that Bollywood can offer.