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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Revisiting The Girl on the Train ahead of its Hindi adaptation: An exceptional Emily Blunt

Starring the versatile and wonderful Emily Blunt as the titular 'girl on the train,' the 2016 movie directed by Tate Taylor is peopled with a talented cast, but the narrative, which is a messy take on redemption of the female spirit, doesn't do them justice. Parineeti Chopra is starring in the Hindi adaptation.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi |
February 25, 2021 8:10:54 am
the girl on the trainDirected by Tate Taylor, The Girl on the Train released in 2016. (Photo: Universal Pictures)

It would have made sense to adapt Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel, The Girl on the Train, as a web or TV series. The entire plot plays out like a soapy saga, touching upon issues such as infidelity, sex and addiction. It would have been great had the author delved deeper into the memory-related part of it, and the fact that it serves different purpose to different people and can hinder or aid in someone’s growth. However, there is hardly any space allotted to that section in the book, let alone in the Hollywood adaptation of the said text. Starring the versatile and wonderful Emily Blunt as the titular ‘girl on the train,’ the 2016 movie directed by Tate Taylor is peopled with a talented cast, but the narrative, which is a messy take on redemption of the female spirit, doesn’t do them justice.

The film is divided into chapters, dealing with three central characters — Emily Blunt’s Rachel, Hayley Bennett’s Megan and Rebecca Ferguson’s Anna. Luke Evans’ Scott and Justin Theroux’s Tom play partners to the three women. Things go haywire after we realise that Megan has gone missing in action and somehow Rachel finds herself in the spotlight as the cops begin their hunt to solve the case. While there is not much going on in the screenplay of the movie in terms of plot, there is enough meat for Blunt to sink her teeth into the part. Why the actor would have given a nod to such a convoluted script in the first place is evident once you watch the movie. Rachel is a complex character, and Blunt adds gravitas to the emotional and physical aspects of her personality. A lesser artiste would have made the movie completely intolerable. Especially in the middle act, as the narrative struggles to find its feet, but Blunt keeps the movie going with her graceful, compelling act as an alcoholic with considerable mental health issues.

Playing an alcoholic and not overdoing it, or merely doing a regular imitation of someone who is drunk would have been the easier path. But upon watching her act, it becomes evident that Blunt treated the role with respect and did her best to not dramatise or trivialise the disease. “It is a challenge because you don’t want to trivialise anything about this disease (alcoholism) and what she is going through. And yet she (Rachel) is compulsive and voyeuristic and has an unhealthy obsession with this seemingly perfect couple,” the actor had revealed in an earlier interview with Today. What also might have helped her process was the fashion in which Theroux played Tom. You wished ill upon him because that is how loathsome Tom was during the entire duration of the film. He didn’t have an empathetic bone in his body. And while Theroux was credible as Tom, it would have done a world of good to his character had all his different shades from the book been incorporated into the film. In the film version, Tom is pretty unidimensional, unlike his novel avatar.

A Hindi adaptation of the The Girl on the Train will release soon on Netflix, where Parineeti Chopra would be seen playing the protagonist. It would be interesting to see the actor’s take on the movie, and whether the makers have made significant changes to the plot while adapting it for the streaming giant. It would be truly remarkable if the Hindi version manages to rise above the failings of the original source material. One can only hope.

You can watch The Girl on the Train on Google Play.

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