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'Te3n': A Slow-Burning Thriller With A Classic Whodunit At Its Core

14/06/2016 12:04 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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Indian Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan attends the music launch for Hindi film Te3n in Mumbai on May 27, 2016. / AFP / - (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

Te3n, directed by Ribhu Dasgupta and produced by Sujoy Ghosh, is an official remake of South Korean movie Montage. It derives its title from the Hindi word for the numeral three, referring to the movie's three principal characters: John Biswas, a grandfather in search of justice, played by Amitabh Bachchan; Martin Das, a guilt-ridden priest, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui; and Sarita Sarkar, an investigating officer, played by Vidya Balan.

Te3n begins on a rather slow note. But, after a sedate start, the narrative picks up well and the movie gradually develops into an engaging thriller. The movie's labyrinthine plot keeps one guessing throughout, and is sometimes reminiscent of great modern thrillers like Memento. Unfortunately, the hitherto sublime writing falls apart during the final 5-10 minutes. The efficacy of a suspense thriller lies in how neatly and how quickly the loose ends are tied up. In Te3n, the writers appear to have overlooked this important facet. This results in a rather botchy ending that fails to do justice to the movie's overall brilliance.

The movie's labyrinthine plot keeps one guessing throughout, and is sometimes reminiscent of great modern thrillers like Memento.

Te3n's plot focuses upon two similar kidnapping cases separated by eight years. While the first one involves a girl, the second involves a boy. But the modus operandi is so similar that the police suspects that the same person is behind both of them. Has the kidnapper returned to the city after eight years of absence? Or, someone is merely trying to imitate the earlier kidnapping? The key to solving the second case lies in how well the police succeed in unravelling the first one. Te3n reminds one of the brilliant Sean Penn-directed The Pledge, starring Jack Nicholson, wherein a retiring police chief pledges to the mother of a murdered girl that he will find the killer.

Te3n is set in Kolkata and brilliantly captures the city's intoxicating beauty. Amitabh Bachchan delivers yet another gritty performance to follow his remarkable turns in Shamitabh, Piku and Wazir -- the septuagenarian is simply unstoppable. He also appears to have deliberately lost a lot of weight to fit himself into the role of a man broken by the loss of his grandchild. While Bachchan is brilliant to watch, it is Nawazuddin Siddiqui who ultimately steals the show with a deeply nuanced portrayal of a guilt-ridden priest. Vidya Balan (although her performance is strangely billed as a guest appearance) provides Siddiqui with the perfect foil, bringing back some fond memories of Kahaani.

Unfortunately, the hitherto sublime writing falls apart during the final 5-10 minutes... [the] rather botchy ending fails to do justice to the movie's overall brilliance.

Overall, Te3n is a slow-burning thriller made in the vein of classic whodunits but with conscious efforts to neatly package it as a modern-day murder mystery. The editing is of the highest quality and immensely adds to the movie's suspense quotient. Te3n is not meant for casual viewing because a lapse in concentration may leave you struggling to follow the narrative. Te3n certainly deserves a better ending, but it still makes for a solid film-viewing experience.

Rating: B+

A version of this review was first published in A Potpourri of Vestiges.

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