Language: Hindi with English
An alcoholic with a memory fractured by amnesia, Mira Kapoor (Parineeti Chopra) takes an aimless train ride through London each day. Through her window she sees a young woman (Aditi Rao Hydari) with a man at a house close to the tracks. After repeated sightings, Mira becomes fixated on this pretty stranger's apparent happiness and abnormally involved in the couple's relationship.
In another part of the city, Inspector Kaur (Kirti Kulhari) of Scotland Yard is investigating a mysterious disappearance. Although it takes a while before the connection between these two strands is revealed, we know immediately that there is one. Mira, meanwhile, gets embroiled in a crime that she cannot remember, even as she struggles to cope with the drinking problem that is causing her life to fall apart before her bleary eyes.
Mira is the protagonist of The Girl on the Train, an Indian Hindi adaptation of the eponymous bestselling British novel that was earlier made into the American hit with Emily Blunt in the lead. As he did with his previous film " the impressively mounted thriller Te3n starring Amitabh Bachchan, Vidya Balan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, which in turn was an official remake of the South Korean film Montage " here too writer-director Ribhu Dasgupta adopts a non-linear approach to his storytelling. While this narrative choice does facilitate some oh-my moments in the script, for the most part what we are served is lacklustre writing.
Dasgupta's Te3n was remarkable and hugely underrated. The Girl on the Train starts off reasonably well but ultimately left me wondering why he did not put his considerable and obvious directorial talent to use in adapting a better story, possibly an original Indian story, for the screen, or why this only mildly interesting British saga was considered worthy of an Indian film in the first place.
The adaptation itself is ruled by a surprising lack of imagination. Why, for instance, did this Girl on the Train need to be set in London? A shift to an Indian city would have inevitably added socio-cultural dimensions worth exploring, but not only is that opportunity lost, even within London, the characters' Indian backgrounds do not translate into any notable cultural specifics in the script, unless you count the clichÃ©d shaadi song at the start. London is almost irrelevant to the proceedings here. Mira is written as such a culturally generic character that we could well be in Delhi without affecting the plotline at all " the only significant difference in that scenario would be that the police department would have been less well-equipped and most human habitations seen from the train would not have been pretty.
This is the sort of script in which when text on screen or a voiceover or a character says something, the director feels the need to emphasise it literally with visuals. Such as when Mira reads a news report saying that X committed suicide and the film cuts to a body in silhouette hanging from a ceiling as though viewers would not get the point otherwise. This happens more than once.
The lack of finesse in the direction is never more evident than in the handling of a bunch of awkward-looking bystanders on a street who witness a hit-and-run accident.
(>Minor spoiler in the next sentence) There is also an irritating red herring thrown our way in the form of a man being somewhat physically intimate with a woman although we are later asked to believe that he was just being supportive. (>Spoiler alert ends) The lynchpin of the entire enterprise is Mira's attraction towards one particular woman she sees from the train and not any other " this ends up being too massive a coincidence and too convenient a contrivance to be convincing.
In the midst of this lack of originality and spark, Parineeti Chopra somehow manages to shine as the troubled heroine of The Girl on the Train, most especially in an obsessive conversation Mira has with a friend ina public toilet. Since she debuted in Maneesh Sharma's 2011 film Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl, Chopra has been a talent in search of a role to match. She manages to embed herself in Mira's tortured mind, giving this film its one selling point.
The rest of the cast is a mixed bag. Hydari and Avinash Tiwary are unexceptional. Kulhari delivers her lines without the ease that made her so striking in Pink. It does not help that the dialogues assigned to her are listless and often pointless. And some of the bit-part players in the film are mediocre.
The understatedness of Te3n was one of its major positives. The Girl on the Train overdoes understatedness, blends it with some mediocre elements and ends up wasting Chopra's sincere performance in the bargain. Apart from the leading lady and one neat twist featuring a psychological game (that is taken from the book), I found myself also drawn to the religious diversity among the characters in the film sans any of the accompanying show-sha that Hindi films tend to opt for, and Neha Kakkar's lovely rendition of the song Matlabi yariyan with music by Vipin Patwa and lyrics by Kumaar. That is about it.
Parineeti Chopra has really invested herself in The Girl on the Train. A pity that she is derailed by dull writing and ordinary execution.
The Girl on the Train is now streaming on Netflix. Watch trailer here:
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)