I remember reading Paula Hawkins’s novel by the same name a few years ago. She wrote with a searing intensity that was engaging and engrossing. Being a fan of the book, I was keenly looking forward to the Bollywood adaptation. I’m glad to say that the film doesn’t disappoint.
The film opens with Nusrat (Aditi Rao Hydari) running in the forest, being attacked by ‘someone’ and then directly cuts to the blood-stained face of Mira Kapoor (Parineeti Chopra). Through a flashback we get to see the usual wedding song, Mira being a righteous lawyer married to Shekhar (Avinash Tiwari), and her being chased by some goons. So far, so meh.
Soon we get to know that Nusrat has been killed (like most other Aditi Rao Hydari characters recently) and Inspector Kaur is taking up her case (this isn’t a spoiler, it was shown in the trailer). Director Ribhu Dasgupta, who made the criminally underrated Te3n and the fairly decent Bard of Blood, knows what he has to do with the story. Written and adapted by him, Abhijeet Khuman and Gaurav Shukla, the writing is smart and sucks you into the world quickly. After the film picks up pace, it doesn’t let your attention falter for a single second. Bollywood rarely gets a murder mystery and The Girl on the Train is an exception.
The film is atmospheric and gorgeously shot by cinematographer Tribhuvan Babu Sadineni, and is propelled by excellent performances. Aditi Rao Hydari as Nusrat makes the most out of her limited screen time. She is fragile and delicate and yet exudes an emotional ferocity. Kirti Kulhari is excellent as the no-nonsense cop. Yes, we have seen this character in Bollywood innumerable times before, but Kirti imbues Dalbir Kaur with strength and prowess in a way only she can. Avinash Tiwary is also very good as Shekhar, Mira’s ex-husband.
However, the undeniable star of the show is Parineeti Chopra. Honestly, I was afraid. Parineeti’s strongest work has been in comedies. Remember Meeta from Hasee Toh Phasee or Gayatri from Shuddh Desi Romance? Also, comparisons between Parineeti and Emily Blunt, who played the protagonist in the Hollywood adaptation, are bound to happen, and Blunt’s mercurial performance is a tough one to match up to for any actor. Parineeti is unlikely casting, but she hits the ball out of the park in this one. She’s fierce, vulnerable and downright deadly. Watch her in a scene where she’s drunk at a party: her expressions are heartbreaking. Honestly, her performance left me wet-eyed towards the end. It’s a career-defining, star-making performance.
Despite deviating from the source material, the film works. Yes, it is more of a thriller than a psychological drama, but the Bollywood-esque twists and turns work in its favour. The climax is unpredictable and neatly pulled off.
However, the film isn’t flawless. The dialogue is clumsy in places and some plot twists require complete suspension of disbelief. Portions in the first hour seem inert, and the voiceover tends to do what most Bollywood movies with voiceovers do: spoon-feed the audience. And other than the unplugged version of ‘Matlabi Yariyan’ sung beautifully by Chopra herself, the music is forgettable and inserted oddly into the screenplay.
But Ribhu Dasgupta’s assured direction along with Parineeti Chopra’s incredible performance make The Girl on the Train a worthy watch. At 120 minutes it is crisp and brisk, and takes you on an enjoyable ride.