Review: TE3N A Slow Burn That Never Quite Catches
On paper, Ribhu Dasgupta's Te3n is a no brainer.
A thriller set in Kolkata featuring three of India's most respected actors, produced by thriller specialist Sujoy Ghosh (Kahaani), and based on Korean kidnap movie Montage, it feels like all of the elements for success are there. Unfortunately, the film moves a bit too slowly for its own good and fails to make good use of the assets in its possession, leaving the audience less thrilled than they should be.
Amitabh Bachchan is John Biswas, an elderly gentleman whose granddaughter was abducted and killed eight years ago. John has never forgiven himself for her death and has spent the last eight years digging for any clue he can scare up but mostly coming up dry.
Every day he's greeted at the police station by detective Sarita Sarkar (Vidya Balan, star of Kahaani), who tells him that he's better off staying at home and that she'll update him on any news that may come up, though nothing ever does. Frustrated by the lack of follow through by the detective, John turns to the original officer from the case, Martin (Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Gangs of Wasseypur), or Father Martin as he's now known, having abandoned law enforcement after the tragedy of John's case.
Father Martin is reluctant to put himself back in the middle of all of the death and memories that haunt him, but when an identical kidnapping case appears, he's called in as a consultant by Sarita and the three approach the new case from different angles. John is still looking for his daughter's kidnapper, Sarita is looking to do her job and catch the new kidnapper before it's too late to save the boy he's taken, and Martin finally sees an opportunity to forgive himself by solving this new crime.
The elements for a solid thriller are all there, but there's something big lacking in the execution that keeps this film from truly grabbing the audience the way it should. The pacing is incredibly slow, and the first hour and fifteen minutes up until the intermission are spent setting up characters and motivation without any big inciting incident to work from. Even the new kidnapping case takes a back seat to character building, which leaves only the second half of the film to present a problem and a resolution, and it tries to get the audience to think through the problem rather than going for the gut.
Dasgupta makes a critical miscalculation in Te3n that untimately leads to its downfall; he has three of India's finest actors on hand and fails to exploit their talents in any substantial way. The vast majority of the film is spent with Bachchan, whose John Biswas is an older gentleman who hobbles around collecting what evidence he can, but ultimately there's a lot of soft speaking and poking around in the dark without much drama.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui is another performer who has proven time and time again that he knows thrillers, but he's also throttled by a film that's more cerebral than visceral, and to call his performance understated would be kind. Vidya Balan, the sole female character of any importance, feels like an afterthought and is the skeptic of the group. While each actor's performance is lacking on its own, the film's biggest crime is having all of these performers persent and giving them almost no opportunities to interact.
I'm not quite sure what tone Ribhu Dasgupta was going for with Te3n, but the film is ultimately too mellow to really grab the audience in the way a thriller should. The story is fine, the script is minimal, and the performers are adequate, but there's no flash. Not only that, when the film finally does arrive at it's conclusion - which is telegraphed pretty clearly about thirty minutes from the finish line - it wraps itself up in a pretty little bow with smiles all around. It's just not the film I think it needs to be to be successful.
There's nothing extraordinarily bad about Te3n, there's just nothing particularly memorable either. Too bad, there's a lot of great talent involved, but sometimes you need a little extra kick to get the gears going, and this rollercoaster never quite got the momentum it needed.
- Ribhu Dasgupta
- Bijesh Jayarajan (screenplay)
- Suresh Nair (screenplay)
- Ritesh Shah (dialogue)
- Amitabh Bachchan
- Nawazuddin Siddiqui
- Vidya Balan
- Mukesh Chhabra