Te3n starts with a fascinating weak obsession, so unlike the virile, masculine thirst for revenge Bollywood has us accustomed to

Te3n Review An exciting backstory killed off by yawn-inducing thrillsFacebook/Reliance Entertainment
Features Film Review Friday, June 10, 2016 - 19:25

I can honestly say that I have never seen so much of a Hindi film actor riding around on a scooter as I saw of Amitabh Bachchan in “Te3n”. It’s a rickety old machine that just refuses to give up, much like Bachchan’s John Biswas.

He’s a grandfather who just can’t let go of his granddaughter Angela’s kidnapping and murder, even though eight years have passed. His son, who lives in the US, blames him for her death at the funeral, and then presumably leaves to get on with whatever life is left to him. And that’s what everybody expects John to do too. But he just can’t let it go.

That part of the premise, established early in the film, is a powerful story to tell on its own. Especially when you add in Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Martin, the officer investigating Angela’s case, who suffers a crisis of conscience at her death and discards his uniform for the vestments of the priest. And while Bachchan’s face droops far too much in the early parts of the film, touches of that potential story are visible early in the film.

Everyone from the police officers witness to Biswas’s daily pilgrimage to the station to Biswas’s own wife, is well and truly tired of his obsession. Because this isn’t the virile, masculine obsession with revenge that Bollywood has us accustomed to. Instead it is an obsession of the weak that has nothing to sustain it but that there is no other choice. Biswas is untouched by the world, and so at odds with it because his life has been robbed of meaning, and he cannot return to the world until meaning is returned, “until justice is done” as he tells his wife early in the film.

But that pathetic half-state, and Siddiqui’s hiding behind the priestly robes seems to have been too much for director Ribhu Dasgupta, as heroic meaning-making comes back with a new kidnapping that unfolds almost like Angela’s.

Suddenly, Siddiqui’s Father Martin seems all too eager to fall back into the routines of his old profession in company with the new investigating officer Sarita (Vidya Balan, who seems to be impersonating a talking mannequin), if not return to his old uniform. And Biswas is off on a parallel trail that suggests a climactic meeting of investigations at the end. The final plot twist is halfway admirable, but that it takes endless reels of stolid, frumpy attempts at a thrilling investigation, takes away whatever joy this twist could have brought.

And there are big holes that you just can’t digest in a gritty thriller, such as for instance the police not realizing that the abducted boy’s grandfather has been missing for almost as long as the boy himself. Or that the cops fall for exactly the same ransom collection method, almost letting the kidnapper escape a second time.

For many thrillers, it’s holding attention in the lulls between the chases that is the difficult exercise. But Te3n fails exactly when it tries to amp up the thrills.