Badlapur has an unusual story. The probability of something similar happening to you or me is evidently thin. Yet, on a deeper level, the film is a reflection of the society that we are a part of. And when I say ‘society’, I’m not restricting myself just to the country of the film’s origin but expressing myself in a global context.
The pain experienced by the protagonist and the unmoved indifference of the antagonist, in terms of physical experiences, might seem light years away from the life that we generally live in our society. One might say that even though the film was genuinely natural and truly contemporary in terms of its setting, characters and presentation, its connection to a common life is clearly uncommon. One might effectively argue that we do not see characters with similar dilemmas or mental states in real life.
But we really need to take a pause here and look at the film with a deeper vision. And once we try to listen to the silent subtext floating beneath the gory screen, we’ll be able to see the raw connection to the flesh and bones of the noiselessly creeping demons of our society.
The film opens with an African proverb ‘The Axe forgets but the tree remembers’ and these words immediately suck us into a wave of rage, revenge and rancor. The audience watches with curiosity the twists and turns, which lead the film and unfurl the darkness of the characters. The protagonist ‘Raghu’ and the antagonist ‘Laik’ are the two opposing pillars which hold the story together. And if we look closely, these two represent aspects of our society that cannot be ignored.
In the movie, the protagonist and antagonist are held captive by a wave of circumstances. They try hard to swim against the uproar and fail at every turn. Life is the protagonist of the movie and Life is also the antagonist. We see how, unexpectedly, an innocent lady and her son are held captive in a robbery, and a few unstable moments of emotional outbursts leads to wounds that stick onto the face of every character that appears on the screen thereafter.
The villain, Laik, is not a regular villain. He never emerges as a man to be feared. He attacks the hero in rage and gets thrashed. We see his helplessness as he tries, with evident fear in his eyes, to fight the man who slaps the love of his life. Throughout the film we see greed oozing out of his open mouth, but rarely do we see evil intentions. He definitely doesn’t fit into the frame of an ideal human, but is not too far off the grid too.
And here is where the revelation occurs. If we look closely, Laik represents the materialistic population that aimlessly skid over trippy situations and end up in a similar phase. He somehow represents the shallow existence of men and women who are busy chasing physical comforts, ignoring what it really means to be human. Yes, we do not find such extremity of circumstances in all those cases, but if we do not get carried away by its magnitude in the film, we’ll find ourselves on the same plane.
Once we raise our heads and look around, we’ll find ‘Laiks’ all around us, running hazily in search of nothing, without even bothering to stop and ponder over any existential values. They have accepted deep inside that their reality is insignificantly minute and that the only way to escape is a blindfolded run towards materialistic saturation in life. It might surface as a harsh truth, but maybe you and me also shelter a tiny ‘Laik’ within us.
Now, if we come to the protagonist ‘Raghu’, we’ll once again discover familiar traits. Once observed under the muted glares of human existence, we’ll come to realize that he is a representative of a tendency that pushes people off the limit to lose their inherent goodness. A solid blow from life and we tend to throw away all that we had gathered, not just as individuals, but as a civilization.
Raghu is the unsaid representative of the affinity where we internally have accepted defeat today, yet we linger externally to an unrealistic tomorrow. We cover ourselves with red clothes of bravery and hit hard on external illusions, unaware of the fact that the blows are causing fatal wounds on the consciousness lying dormant inside.
We see people falling off the verge each moment. Every day we read about people ending their lives by dirty ropes of ignorance and pills of painful sleep. Who are these people? Are they not Raghu?
We all are the protagonists of our stories. We must remember here that the protagonist is called a hero. But the heroic qualities are steadily evaporating into steamy nothingness. A moment of quake is often misunderstood as an end. And this is a dangerous trait for the entire civilization. We see in the film that Raghu, on losing his wife and children, leaves behind all hope and goodness and slides into the easy pathway of darkness where the task of building a tomorrow is no more required. We see people taking similar decisions all around us, each day. And we too stand at a risk of making the same mistakes.
But, the best part about this movie is that it doesn’t just raise problems. If it tries exuberantly to portray the slowly creeping evils of the society, it also tries to pull closer a solution. The most brilliant aspect of the movie is that even though being a film about revenge, it openly preaches the value of peace.
While we expect and watch a gory thriller that walks with a slimy panache and reverberates with a sense of anger inside our selves, the celluloid slowly creeps inside our bones and we subconsciously reach a state that is utterly peaceful amidst all the anger prevailing on the screen.
The only solution to every dark corner inside is to spark a light. This requires bravery, but is surely the only solution. The whole narrative flips around in the story when the antagonist takes up the right path to save an enemy from treading a wrong one. The allegory is deep, but somehow the solution is simple. We just can’t let the love inside us die. We need to hold onto it even when the storms are scary and the darkness is immaculate.
The film, without being preachy, tells us that the end of every war can be attained only through peace. And this is not an external peace that we’re talking about. People must establish a relation of peace with themselves, and this relation would take care of everything else. We do not know if the protagonist takes off the skin of ego and returns back to light in the end. We just see him standing there, staring blankly into eternity. He might choose the path or ignore it, but the film surely puts before us a brighter option.