The Girl on the Train Movie Review - A Catastrophic Derailment

 Ribhu Dasgupta's The Girl on the Train murders its own mystery.

I was really looking forward to the Bollywood adaptation of Tate Taylor's 2016 thriller
The Girl on the Train, which in turn was inspired by the 2015 novel of the same name by Paula Hawkins. I was excited primarily because Ribhu Dasgupta chose to adapt from a material that was not so successful in the first place (I am talking in terms of Taylor's film. I have not read the novel). Instead of recycling from a blockbuster bin, Dasgupta chose to go for a critical failure. I was interested to see the director's spin and what changes he would bring to the table. There are changes all right as Dasgupta doesn't entirely replicate Taylor's film. Did these "changes" work? Unfortunately, no. In fact, they make the story even more absurd than it originally was.

If the Hollywood adaptation was a train wreck that even the trio of Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, and Rebecca Ferguson couldn't save, then this Hindi remake is also nothing more than a train wreck that even the trio of Parineeti Chopra, Aditi Rao Hydari, and Kirti Kulhari couldn't save. Now that's the kind of faithfulness I was not looking for here. Viewers of Taylor's film (including me) would be well-aware of the twist in the tale. The Girl on the Train incorporates two twists out of which one is taken from the 2016 film, and another is added by Dasgupta along with Viddesh Malandkar, who is credited with adapting the screenplay. A quick remark on the second twist: a glaring costume choice gives it away from a mile. I won't reveal what it is, but it is so so so blatant and in your face that you have to be blind to not notice it. That thing screams for your attention. How can the director overlook such a detail? Anyway, since I knew about the eventual (first) twist, I concentrated more on the journey than the destination. 

It helped me notice things like how Mira's (Parineeti Chopra) reflection in the mirrors and the initial fragmented timeline indicate her unreliability or broken psyche, if you may. I was also able to discern a connection between the three women. Throughout the film, Mira is put under certain circumstances that alter her comportment. At first, she is asked to act gentle and innocent like Nusrat (Aditi Rao Hydari). Later, she turns into a tough woman like Inspector Kaur (Kirti Kulhari). Dasgupta hints at these changes through subtle gestures. For example, he frames Nusrat and Mira in a bathtub using the exact closeup shot and position. From Inspector Kaur, her nod is borrowed and given to Mira, which she uses when she meets a blackmailer. I may be right. I may be hallucinating. Should I book an appointment with a doctor?

For a film whose engine is made up of adultery, it's shocking to see Dasgupta restraining from sensuality. Taylor's version had its share of eroticism. What Dasgupta gives is five-second foreplay. Why do our filmmakers shy away from sex? You can show a certain amount of nudity and pass your film with Adult Certification. Hate Story and Hate Story 3 had some decent sex scenes. And The Girl on the Train is no doubt a made-for-adult film. On Netflix, it has been given a 16+ rating citing sex as one of the reasons. But it's just a short tease on the backseat of a car. When it finally dumps lines like, "Your kisses and hugs, they've set me free," they feel devoid of passion because there is no steam.

Parineeti Chopra gives her best to the film. She cries and howls and smashes glasses, according to the scene. Her efforts don't entirely go in vain. However, she barely holds up during excessive dramatic points. You catch her "acting" when she shouts in front of a mirror, threatening to break someone's head. Whenever she is asked to shed a bucket of tears or deliver heavy monologues, you don't buy into her performance but see her performing. Chopra works wonderfully when she contemplates her situation quietly. You are able to identify with Mira's loneliness when she merely gazes out of the window from the moving train. Her eyes speak volumes about her state. But even here, Mira's voice-over debilitates the gravity of the moment. These voices, which explain Mira's thoughts, are so desperate to sound urgent that they come across as cringe. Chopra's tone lacks the necessary weight to take it seriously. Still, she is watchable enough to hold you for two hours of runtime. Kulhari and Rao Hydari are not well-utilized in their parts. Their characters are deprived of a strong personality. They appear tough from the outside but are hollow from the inside.

In its fear of entirely painting Mira as a deranged psychopath, it introduces a scene at a support group where the camera captures her face in an extremely tight closeup. You can distinguish the boundaries between her tears, wound, and her dark black eyes. The film strains to humanize this character by draining excess tears from her eyes and heavy dialogues from her mouth. Compare this to the small scene in Taylor's film where a mother pulls back her child from Blunt's character when she notices her as an alcoholic. The message - they are tippler but also filled with a soft corner - remains the same, but Taylor lands the punch more effectively without sledgehammering. The Girl on the Train has a habit of making the same point over and over again, like a train passing through the same station every day. It shows one thing and returns to it again using a flashback. This constant need for underlining only made it repetitive. The songs are neither catchy nor memorable. They just kill the mood. When it all ends, you wish Mira had never taken a train. Who knew a train ride would end up bringing a slew of unpleasant memories for both the traveler and the audience? 

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