Ribhu Dasgupta’s 2021 Bollywood rendition of The Girl on the Train is a mystery crime thriller following the story of Mira Kapoor (played by Parineeti Chopra), a recent divorcee and alcoholic suffering from anterograde amnesia who travels to and fro a certain train route on the daily and fixates on the couple that now lives in her old house. In Mira’s perception, the woman, Nusrat John (played by Aditi Rao Hydari) is everything that Mira once was— happy and married to a wonderful man. The Girl on the Train narrates the story of Mira’s harmless infatuation with a stranger’s life which quickly escalates into a psychotic obsession when Mira suspects Nusrat is being unfaithful in her marriage; all leading to a domino effect of entangled events and revelations.
The opening shot of the movie attempts at creating a chilling atmosphere with the use of an ominous background score of a train running on its tracks during a full moon night, followed by a hooded figure chasing Nusrat through the woods who gets hit on the head. In the next shot, Mira is seen standing at a railway platform, a hooded jacket partly covering her disheveled hair, the side of her head bruised and bleeding. Mira’s trance-like state is intended to establish her as the perpetrator until one figures out that the story might not be that straightforward. The remaining minutes of the movie are similarly non-linearly narrated.
Alongside Chopra and Hydari, the ensemble cast consists of Kirti Kulhari playing Scotland Yard detective Dalbir Kaur Bagga; Avinash Tiwary playing Mira’s ex-husband, Shekhar Kapoor. In secondary roles, The Girl on the Train sees Shamaun Ahmed as Nusrat’s husband, Anand; Tota Roy Chowdhury as Nusrat’s psychiatrist, Dr. Hamid; and Richie Lawrie as a private investigator, Walter. While all these characters initially seem to be functioning as the helping hands in the plot of the primary character, they eventually turn out to be several conveniently placed plot-devices to steer the storyline in a certain direction, making it seem like a series of fateful coincidences. Additionally, while Dasgupta’s iteration primarily focuses on the hardships of Mira’s life— as compared to its source novel by Paula Hawkins which parallelly narrates the stories of three different women— Chopra’s acting fails to work successfully in favor of the same. In some scenes, for instance, her first speech at the alcoholics anonymous meeting, Chopra’s portrayal of Mira’s pain and angst seem genuine; while in several others, like her intoxicated breakdown in the washroom after seeing Shekhar with his new wife, her character’s anger and psychosis, comes off as animated with little to no moderation.
Along similar lines, the technical aspects of the movie were also rather hit-or-miss. Throughout its running minutes, the movie sees an over usage of thriller music for its background score— in scenes where people are being chased by the police, the same piece of music plays in the background as when two characters are having a rather serious conversation.
Another aspect the movie fails at is portraying subtlety. Mira’s voiceovers are heard narrating her inner feelings and conflicts to the point of leaving no room for the viewer to form any sort of perception or opinion of Mira. In one scene, while Mira is walking the streets of London, she is drinking out of a flask, clearly depicting that she is satiating her uncontrollable urge to be intoxicated. However, Chopra’s voice-over narrating how in suppressing one’s trauma, vodka helps’ spoonfeeds the viewer an idea instead of letting them develop any on their own. Additionally, Chopra’s portrayal of Mira’s rage and the inevitable helplessness that stem from her emotions are rather exaggerated and plastic which unintentionally prevents the viewer from feeling any sort of sympathy towards Mira’s situation.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of The Girl on the Train is the cinematography by Tribhuvan Babu Sadineni. The regular scenes don’t come off as jarring or overdone; hence making the viewer feel like a consistently present onlooker throughout the movie, but in portraying the intoxicated chaos that Mira tends to fall into more often than not, the camera work aids in creating an almost immersive experience. However, this iteration’s Achilles heel would be its Bollywood commercialization. In what seems to be an attempt to add shock value, Dasgupta goes above and beyond to create twists in the storyline to a point of overkill. During the climax, the movie seems like less of a thriller and more of a messy chain of events told in a confusing manner. Additionally, The Girl on the Train doesn’t let its viewers look back at the events to try to understand its ending with an uncanny discomfort that is typical in thrillers like such.
Watch The Girl on the Train here.
Featured Image Via IMDb