The Naseeruddin Shah starrer Michael, which marked Ribhu Dasgupta’s debut as a director, could not see a release for itself in theatres despite winning accolades in various film festivals. He then got an opportunity to helm Yudh, with which Amitabh Bachchan made his foray into the fiction space on television. Ribhu managed to weave a web of suspense fantastically across more than twenty episodes in the television show. Thus, it is not surprising to see him helm a suspense thriller after the show. TE3N, an official remake of the Korean film Montage, has Sujoy Ghosh serving as the creative producer. Ghosh had least directed Kahaani which, incidentally, was a thriller based in Kolkata, the same city in which TE3N is based.
John Biswas (Amitabh Bachchan) is grappling with the grief of losing his granddaughter Angela (Aarna Sharma) to an accident eight years back. Angela was kidnapped by a man whose identity remains a mystery till date. Angela had lost her life while trying to escape. Even though eight years have passed and John has not been able to gather any substantial clue that would lead him to the kidnapper, he is determined to find him and punish him for his deed. One day, John stumbles upon something which, he figures, has a connection to the kidnapper. John seeks help from Martin (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), an ex-police officer who worked on the case and is now a clergyman. Martin, who claims to have left the past behind him, urges John to get over the incident as well. John has been persuading the police to help him trace the kidnapper for years now. Inspector Sarita (Vidya Balan) assures him that they would let him know if they get any sort of new information on the case. John decides to use the clue and trace the kidnapper himself. Meanwhile, a young boy is kidnapped in the city, and the way he has been kidnapped bears a striking resemblance to the measures the kidnapper took while kidnapping Angela six years back.
A film, which has been designed as a whodunit, should keep you guessing till the end. The pre-interval portions immerse you in the old-world charm of the city and give a sense of the gloomy atmosphere the film is set in. The first half ends with a terrific twist that makes you look forward to the second half with bated breath. After a few interesting moments, the film turns out to be painfully slow in the second half. Sarita, who came across as a diligent officer initially, does not listen to Martin who points out some glaring loopholes in the case. Viewers are fed with information to mislead them before the final reveal but if you are attentive enough, you will see the penultimate twist coming from a distance. The ease with which John executes his plan and cajoles a little boy into helping him out seems far from believable.
Amitabh Bachchan’s performance is one of the major strengths of the film. You empathize with the pain and grievance of John Biswas because of the actor’s masterful performance. Nawazuddin Siddiqui delivers a good performance, though one does feel he could have added some nuances to portray the guilt-ridden cop-turned clergyman. Vidya Balan shines as a tough cop in a full-fledged role billed as ‘special appearance.’ Sabyasachi Chakraborty leaves a very good impression as Mohan Sinha.
Ribhu Dasgupta succeeds in setting up a dark, morbid milieu that works well for a film of this nature. The screenplay (Suresh Nair and Brijesh Jayrajan), based on the original story written by Chun Keun-Sup, engages you in the first half but falters in the second half. The emotional touch that was required in a revenge saga is also missing to a great extent. The dialogues (Suresh Nair) are ordinary. The songs and the background score (Clinton Cerejo) blend seamlessly into the narrative. The cinematography (Tushar Kanti Ray) and the production design (Tanmoy Chakraborty) contribute greatly towards the vintage look of the film.
TE3N starts off very well and keeps up a good momentum through the first half. The narrative dips in the second half and culminates in an unexciting climax. Still, the film maintains a nice dark atmosphere throughout and has some terrific performances to boast of. If only, the makers had a more engaging screenplay in hand.