Various Cult Movie References in Shriram Raghavan's 'Badlapur'


I'm mildly surprised that not one movie review of Shriram Raghavan's neo-noir story, 'Badlapur' has mentioned the various apparent, some not-so-apparent, others subtle and the vague cult movie references hidden in this gem of a movie.

To associate this beauty with Bollywood is perhaps the ultimate masterstroke. Because no one will expect what's going to happen in the very next scene, which you rather expect from even an average Hollywood production. You know it in the back of your head, but if what you know happens, that'll be outrageous to pull off in Bollywood! The movie was a simple revenge-crime drama, and it is only the direction, editing and acting behind the execution of the movie, that has turned the table back on against the simplicity of the story. If you've been watching a lot of Korean serial killer movies, you'd perhaps have understood where this was heading. Yes, even the climax, I believe.

Here's a list of all the movie references I found in the movie:

Oldboy (2003)

The Godfather of all revenge tales in the world of motion pictures, the Korean cult classic Oldboy would perhaps approve of the jaw-dropping scene in Badlapur of an inconsolable man hacking the family of an alleged perpetrator to death with (drum rolls and slow claps) a Claw Hammer. Personally I knew this was coming. But after a while, I thought maybe not. Or at least not immediately right now. But boy I was wrong! And not scanning the horizons in the trailer before watching the movie totally helped!

The few moments of incessant falling of the hammer, gradually increasing blood splatter on the shirt and the screams of not the person under it, but that of the guy carrying out the act. It's a moment of absolute stupefaction, where you don't think for a while and try to grasp the scene. And if you still have the emotional capacity to feel for the scene - perhaps in your second or third watch - you'd be feeling sorry for the murderer. And for his desolate screams. But that'll be the last time in the movie when you feel anything for him anymore.

Personally, I like everything about the scene. Raghu watches Koko die in her husband's arms and as soon as she passes away, he pushes Herman to the side, hits him on his head and starts hacking him to death. I love the frequency of his blows, and how it increases after a couple blows. First few being the ones meant to kill, second half of the blows was perhaps only to seek some comfort from an act of absolute vengeance. And lastly, I like the end of it, as the hammer either slips out of his hand or he just lets go with one unceremonious final blow.

I'm sure Park Chan-wook would approve of Raghavan's mastery of handling the scene. The wonderful thing about this scene is that although it references Oldboy directly, it forces us to look back into all the famous movies where people have been hacked to death. Notable mention: American Psycho and the ax scene. Also perhaps, Dexter, because of all the plastic around the room.

There is however, one more critical reference to this movie: 'the wait of 15 years' to exact revenge. I have no doubt that this is a curiously devised reference to the Korean masterpiece.

Psycho (1960)

This was a very subtle reference and I'm not sure if it was deliberate. If you pay attention to the scene in the prison, after 15 years, where Laik is sitting next in line in the queue at the barber's. The prison bully is getting himself some massage from one of his minions, all the while taunting Laik for all his innumerable attempts at escaping from the jail.

Laik suddenly gets up and in a swift motion, snatches away the cut-throat razor from the stunned barber and runs after the minion. With the cut throat razor in his hand, and a head full of crazy flowy hair, Laik sprints along with a background music of (drumrolls and slow claps, again) a high-pitched and shrill "Eeee.. Eeee.. Eeee.. Eeee.." - if you remember the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock classic.

Also, the same music plays in the background when the kid falls from the moving car in the first 5 minutes of the movie.

Much subtle.

Sholay (1975)

This was, by far, the most obvious reference that the director repeatedly made throughout the prison scenes in the movie. In a Shawshank Redemtion-esque scene, where all the prisoners in the jail are watching the movie and especially the scene where dacoit Gabbar Singh declares that there's no place in the world that can keep him in for long. The very next scene featuring Laik against the sun has been shot from such an angle that reminds us of the scene in Sholay where Thakur sa'ab comes out of the jail office and gets the news that Gabbar has indeed escaped! Goosebumps.

The dialogues have been followed up by at least two near attempts of Laik in his chances of escaping prison. And they were always supported by brilliantly mischievous music in the background. Attention to detail was the key in all those scenes and the dark humor was quite laid-back - which is good!

Also, apart from the number of years being a reference to Oldboy, it was also a reference to Sholay. While Raghu waited 15 years to exact revenge, the accused was sentenced to remain imprisoned for 20 years - the same as Gabbar Singh from Sholay. They even include the dialogue that Thakur had with Gabbar about him forgetting everything about himself in 20 years and Gabbar said that 'there is no jail in the world that can keep him in for 20 years' in reply. This dialogue was heard off-screen, as the inmates were being showed a movie in the prison. I'm not sure if there's any law that sends a double homicide and a robbery accused culprit to prison for 20 exact years. I believe there ought to be a couple of years more to it, right? I'll have to do my research on that. This is no doubt a well-intended homage.

I Saw The Devil (2010)

This Jee-woon Kim directed serial killer classic gets a direct reference in Badlapur. The overall plot of the latter is essentially the same as the gruesome, unapologetic and violent Korean film. The description for the movie on IMDB reads: 'When his pregnant fiancee becomes the latest victim of a serial killer, a secret agent blurs the line between good and evil in his pursuit of revenge' and is perhaps the best way to define Badlapur as well. Except that this wasn't a serial killer movie.

Many parallels can be drawn between the two movies. For example, in both the movies, the main protagonist starts as the victim, whose sensible world is shaken when his wife and child are brutally murdered by unforeseen forces. Both the characters decide to make it a personal mission to track down the murderer and exact vengeance. We are made to see the initial crime, in all it's brutality and pointlessness, that forces us emotionally to take sides. And then both the directors meticulously unveil the monstrous vengeance that the men carry out in their pursuit of justice. And throughout the rest of the movie, we find the lines of morality and the one between good and evil blur as the protagonist slowly becomes a monster himself in order to get back at the perpetrators of the original crime.

Striking, is the similarity between the two men: them being in control of the plot throughout the second half of the movie and torture the criminals slowly and psychologically, before finishing them off.

Another possible reference is the similarity in the posters for both the movies.

I was totally expecting the turn of fortunes and the insightful reflection, which was more like an elephant in the room in the second half of the movie. But only because, of all the people, the brilliant Nawazuddin Siddiqui was made to say those lines, "I killed your innocent wife and child when I was not thinking straight. When I was being hot headed. But you killed them - innocent people - in cold blood. With a hammer.. what's the difference?" I accepted the deliverance without a chuckle.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

This is perhaps not a good reference as perhaps any kind of a movie that has prison sequences in it would start by bowing to this masterpiece adapted from the Stephen King novella. But the presence of a prison bully makes it easier to draw parallels.

While in Shawshank, the protagonist is frequently assaulted by the bull queer gang 'The Sisters' and their leader Bogs, in Badlapur we have a Michael bhai and his gang of prison minions who baited Laik on his first night at prison. While they didn't hint a sexual assault in the jail (possibly because there were ulterior involvement of the loot money), Laik was definitely assaulted by them on his first night there, and as far as we know, psychologically, for 15 years.

Needless to say, the involvement of a prison escape, however unsuccessful, ultimately pays homage to The Shawshank Redemption, as well as The Great Escape (1963) - the movies that set the original bar for jailbreak.

Also perhaps, the redemption in the end.

No Country for Old Men (2007)

This is a personal reference I feel, as not everyone would perhaps get this. Nor is it exclusive to the Coen Brothers movie. It is the scene by the end of the movie where Laik attempts to strangulate Raghu - Hitman style - from behind him in his house.


I feel there are also other countless hidden references that I'm missing. The scene where Raghu rapes the prostitute Chimli / Shabhnam as an act of vengeance on Laik. Although that scene wasn't the best shot (or acted) scene in the movie, it didn't dent the other scenes in the rest of the movie. It reminded me of Rush (2013) where Lauda meets the pretty receptionist at Ferrari and upon hearing that her ex-boyfriend was Hunt (and his being an 'immortal fuck' as Regazzoni puts it), he allegedly proceeds to live up to the competition just for the sake of a duel with Hunt. The scene where Raghu goes to the Herman Residency and tortures the couple psychologically, refers to the countless home invasion movies in Hollywood and European.

Remember the iconic Singin' in the Rain scene from A Clockwork Orange (1971) anyone?

The first few minutes were perhaps the best opening scenes ever shot in a Bollywood movie. A regular day at MG Road in Pune becomes the epicenter for the plot, as multiple characters from the scene get involved. Some run, some are abducted, some give a chase, some collide head-on and some die by the end of it. The death scene of the kid was perhaps the only and certainly the best, if not the only scene in Hindi movie history where a child is murdered so gruesomely and unceremoniously!

Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vinay Pathak stood out. Radhika Apte was a surprise. The rest were good, maybe just a few notches lesser than the Pathak/Siddiqui duo. I'm sure Varun Dhawan did his best too, and I don't complain. In some scenes he showed unparalleled talent. But there were also some that needed work. But you know what? I ain't complaining! Brilliant direction and crisp editing did the rest.

Go watch it!

1 comment:

  1. Check this review of badlapur movie