Te3n Review: Quite engrossing, not quite so thrilling

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Movie Review: Te3n (2016)

Director: Ribhu Dasgupta

Genre: Thriller

Language: Hindi

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vidya Balan, with Padmavati Rao, and Sabyasachi Chakrabarty as Manohar Sinha

Writers: Bijesh Jayarajan (screenplay), Suresh Nair (screenplay), and Ritesh Shah (dialogues)

Rating: 3/5 stars

A thriller that hits multiple notes and evokes diverse emotions from a viewer during its 2-hour+ duration, Te3n is one of those movies that amazes you at times and frustrates you at others. It has the potential to keep you riveted at the edge of your seat, but it’s content with making you sit attentively at most.

From the opening scene itself, you feel like you could be in for a treat. The frail yet unmistakably imposing presence of Amitabh Bachchan as an old man, surveying a busy police precinct is exactly the type of scene that leaves the audience wondering – what could have happened? Enter Vidya Balan as the chief inspector, with a calm yet no-nonsense demeanor, who tries to comfort Bachchan for something tragic in his past that still haunts him; and the story is set up really well within the first 15 minutes itself.

Bachchan plays John Biswas, a man who refuses to give up hope on finding the murderer of his only grandchild, even when all others around him – law-enforcers and family alike – have decided to move on. Eight years after the crime remains unsolved, John’s intent and conviction of finding the culprit remains steadfast as ever. Almost like a man possessed with a single-minded focus, John’s steely resolve goes unnoticed behind his meek, shabby, and harmless outlook. And nailing this multi-faceted complex character to the hilt is that old warhorse, the performer of all performers, the Big B. It’s unbelievable how this man excels in every little nuance, every slight emotion; reinventing himself in each character he plays even without seeming like he’s trying to. Just when you think what more can Amitabh offer on screen, along he comes with another act to marvel in awe. Additionally, his rendition of the song Kyun Re that plays in the background of one emotional scene is the icing on the cake. Two other songs also play in the background, but they hamper the narrative more than taking it forward.

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But this is no one-man show. Bachchan enlists Nawazuddin Siddiqui in his quest, regardless if he wishes to aid him or not. Nawaz plays Father Martin, an ex-cop turned priest, who was also, incidentally, the cop in charge of rescuing John’s granddaughter all those years ago. He leaves the force as a result of the severe mental trauma experienced when he couldn’t save the kid in time. Though he seeks the priesthood as an outlet to find peace and move on, John isn’t quite ready to let him retire to a life of prayer and service just yet.

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However, when another kidnapping occurs eight years later, with exactly the same M.O. as John’s granddaughter’s case, it’s exactly the stimulant Martin needs to spring back into action. And spring back he does because this is Nawaz we’re talking about. He plays the perfect foil to Bachchan’s meatier character, and together, the two play off each other admirable to set us on a wild goose chase. Sandwiched between them is Balan as the cop in charge of the current case, and she’s like the mayonnaise that makes the sandwich all the more scrumptious. In fact, Balan has got a substantial supporting role in Te3n, and why she’s credited with a guest appearance is best left answered to the makers themselves. Both Balan and Nawaz are at the top of their game. The only thing is that they come up against a veteran, who’s not only got a much meatier role, but has years more experience behind him.

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So, if everything works so smoothly, what’s the issue, you may ask. Well, that’s the thing – if things only move along so smoothly, it’s because these three actors ensure that they rise above the narrative whenever it threatens to steer off-course. Though Te3n is based on a brilliant Korean film called Montage, what separates the two is the pace and the handling of intricate portions. Director Ribhu Dasgupta does a fine job as long as he’s moving the thriller along by the numbers. But the moment the screenplay (well adapted by Suresh Nair, Ritesh Shah, and Bijesh Jayarajan) demands that he looks at things with a complex eye, the inconsistencies in the flow become too evident to overlook. Plus, he decides to play such scenarios by dropping the pace to almost a crawl, wherein he muddles the difference between a slow-burning thriller and just a slow thriller. Also, the big twist that comes in the end satisfies you without exactly leaving you stunned, which would have been fine had Dasgupta not set up the story for an earth-shattering revelation. And that’s where the performances of Te3n become all the more crucial to keeping you interested in what’s going on.

Te3n may not be the thriller you’re expecting, but it still is a thriller that you’d be content walking away from. It had the potential to be so much more, but, thankfully, it at least does enough with that potential to leave a good enough impression on you. With its performances and some suspenseful scenes that hit the mark, Te3n will make for a decent trip to the cinema this weekend.

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11 responses to “Te3n Review: Quite engrossing, not quite so thrilling

    • Very strange that it wouldn’t be subtitled. It’s quite pointless I feel to showcase your movie in a foreign land and not subtitle it. Everyone from the target expat community would also not be fluent with the film’s original tongue, particularly if they’ve been raised in that country.

      The lead actor in the film, Amitabh Bachchan, gives a mesmerizing performance that both expats and the indigenous demographic would enjoy, provided everybody’s allowed to understand the dialogues.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I caught it this afternoon. Played hooky from work and sat in a cool theater while the outside temperature was 114 degrees! I’ve got to say your review was perfect. I agree with everything you said except I was not drawn in by Amitabh Bachchan. To me, he played it pretty much with a blank expression and the viewer was left to fill in emotions. That is, until the last scene when he and Nawaz are discussing the capture of the perpetrator. When he smiles what a different man he appears to be. I did object to the wife’s role. She seemed superfluous. And when you have written such a strong female character as Balan plays, why not do the same with the other female roles? I understand hers is a small role, but she does not push the story along at all. Anyway, great job in getting me to see the film. I really enjoyed it- although, as you say, it keeps your interest but is not quite the thriller you would expect. And please, can you explain the title?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s so pleasing when someone watches a movie going by your review and then agrees with most of the things you’ve commented on. Also, while I liked Amitabh’s performance, I can relate to your take on it because I’ve seen so many films where he’s knocked it out of the park. Also, loved how you decided to catch the movie – precisely something I used to do before someone finally decided to pay me for watching and reviewing movies.

      Te3n is a confusing title for this movie as it doesn’t relate to the plot or theme. In Hindi, it simply translates to the number “3”, which could denote the three characters of Amitabh, Nawaz, and Balan, but even by that approach, it doesn’t quite make sense as a title.

      Liked by 1 person

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