Hindi Reviews

Te3n Review: Slick Thriller, Poignant Drama

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An eight-year-old crime returns to shake up the present in Ribhu Dasgupta’s Te3n (Three). A grandfather, a priest and a cop (hence, three) work together to solve cases which seem interlinked. Two victims. One criminal. Or are there two?

An official remake of Geun-seop Jeong’s 2013 South Korean thriller Montage, Te3n is founded on the former’s sturdy and intelligent narrative. 

The film starts off as a brooding emotional drama, thick with grief and guilt. Slowly, rather unsuspectingly, it moves to a different genre. It has well-crafted edgy moments, interesting plot twists, and revelations. Also, loose ends.

And elephant-in-the-room scenes that come with an invisible caption, ‘Look, Amitabh Bachchan Can Act!’

*****

A 7-year-old girl was kidnapped and subsequently killed in an unsolved criminal case that happened 8 years ago in Kolkata. Martin Das (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), the police inspector in charge of the case, blames himself for the death and resigns from the post. Years later, Martin is a confused priest at a Kolkata church – a life he chose, perhaps, to escape from his sense of guilt. The case has faded away from everyone’s memory. But John (Amitabh Bachchan), the child’s grandfather, is relentless. He has visited the police station every single day in the last eight years, persuading the police chief Sarita Sharma (an adept Vidya Balan) to reopen the case.

*****

Montage was a film that demanded every bit of the viewer’s attention. A slick thriller, it tricked the audience into believing everything shown on screen – only to reveal, at the end, the truth hiding all the while behind the lies.

Montage, subtly though, took on the rotten bureaucratic system in South Korea. The ego clashes between two detectives formed an important part of the main plot. And the lone crusader in the film was a woman. She pleads with the police to reopen the 15-year-old case of kidnap and murder of her little daughter, when there are just days left for the case to reach its expiry date according to the country’s law. There is a reason to the sense of urgency in her actions.

*****

In Te3n, the character milieu is almost absent. The focus is on the characters, their emotional trauma, and the relationship they share.

Grief, as we see, has stuck to John like a layer of tar. The film uses many close-ups and long shots of John, emphasising his weak physique and psyche. It works, to an extent, to cover up the layer underneath.

However, the initial portions of the film, which follows John from police station to the church to his home, are marred by erratic writing. Every now and then, a character shoots the line, “why are you still after this case, John?” at him. There is something about him that sticks out of the whole narrative. The grief in his expressions looks abnormally fresh.

The portrayal Sarita and Martin’s relationship is brilliant. Why does she, a senior police official, seek Martin’s help in solving the case? Does she feel incapable of solving it without his aid? The duo’s combination scenes, which have subtle romantic undertones, seem to hint at something else. Perhaps she wants him to stop living a life of lies, or perhaps she just wants to be closer to him.

However, there is no explanation for why John waited for eight years to spring into action. Also, it is unreasonable that Martin who seems desperate to stay away from his past never considered leaving the city.

Also relevant is the makers’ decision to set the film in Kolkata. Could one think of another city in India which stays untouched by time as Kolkata? The archaic feel of the city, its majestic buildings and its laid-back life play a key role in setting up the film’s plot.

In Te3n, there aren’t any typical Kolkata shots. In one scene, Howrah Bridge makes an appearance as a misty silhouette in the background. The characters do not speak in accented Hindi or broken Bengali. And they aren’t the usual Bengali bhadralok. Similar to durga idols and the pujo being used as motifs in Kahaani, Te3n uses churches and imambara. These places act as witnesses to almost all the important moments in the film.

*****

Of the three lead actors, Siddiqui is easily the best. The glances he steals at Sarita in the police station, the witty wisdom he imparts at the church while solemnising a marriage, the reluctance in gestures when he is back in the midst of cops, are all visual treats.

There are moments in Te3n that might remind one of Bejoy Nambiar’s Wazir, in which Bachchan played a similar role. If Wazir was a lousy thriller with overly melodramatic scenes, Te3n, in spite of its essential Bollywoodness, finishes as an engaging thriller and a poignant emotional drama.

*****

The Te3n review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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