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The Girl On The Train review: Parineeti Chopra film has the subtlety of Shatabadi Express

The Girl On The Train review: Overstated writing and choppy contrivances make Parineeti Chopra film go off the rails.

Rating: 2 out of 5
Written by Shubhra Gupta
New Delhi | Updated: February 27, 2021 8:33:16 am
the girl on the train reviewThe Girl on the Train is streaming on Netflix. (Photo: Aditi Rao Hydari/Twitter)

The Girl On The Train cast: Parineeti Chopra, Avinash Tiwary, Aditi Rao Hydari, Kirti Kulhari, Tota Roy Chowdhury
The Girl On The Train director: Ribhu Dasgupta
The Girl On The Train rating: Two stars.

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Mira Kapoor is a girl, on a train. She’s a lush. Armed with a hip flask, into which deep inroads are frequently made. Thick kohl-smudged eyes, slurred tongue, fogged brain. She takes the same train, back and forth from London to the suburbs, everyday. Everyday, she passes her former home, which falls along the tracks, in which lives a pretty woman Mira envies. And then one day, that woman goes missing. A body is found in the woods. And questions abound.

This latest edition of ‘The Girl On The Train’ comes after Hollywood version of the same name in which Emily Blunt plays the alcoholic stalker with a dark past, which in turn was based on Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel. The use of the ‘girl’ in the title may have been used to remind you of ‘Gone Girl’, in which Gillian Flynn gave us a hot take on the sexual, sensual girl who uses her wiles to buy her way out of trouble. (It also launched an endless array of thrillers with ‘girl’ in the title.) Hawkins’ girl wasn’t as sharp as Flynn’s, but there was something beguiling about the way she let us into her head, even though the film had too much going on– too many characters, too much sloshing of vodka, too many red herrings. It was Blunt’s performance, even if it wasn’t her best, which carried the film through.

The trouble with Parineeti Chopra’s Mira is that you never completely buy her. As the girl with unresolved trauma trying to put behind her broken marriage, the actor looks just right. A lot of thought has gone into the unmade hair, the smeared kajal, the blood-shot eyes. But she isn’t written with enough depth. We have no idea who Mira is, before and after she meets with the smart Shekhar (Avinash Tiwary), who wins her over before the first song is out. Yes, there are songs in the film. A Bollywood adaptation of a murder mystery without ‘naach-gaana’, in 2021? Perish the thought. It’s also why the film is two hours long.

The overstated writing lets down the plot, which in any case is filled with apparently unrelated characters popping in and out: a very take-charge type of police woman (Kriti Kulhari) is assigned to the case, a mysterious photographer creeps about the same woods where the body is found; a spot of blackmail is in the air; an over-friendly shrink (Roy Chowdhury) shows up briefly, as does a desi mobster. The characters come, and before we can clock them, they go. And Nusrat (Aditi Rao Hydari), the lovely-looking woman who sets everything into motion, could just as easily have been a wraith, so insubstantial is she.

It’s only after a good hour has passed that the overwrought Chopra settles down, to dig a little deeper into her role, and deliver moments when you can see the girl’s pain, even if fleeting. And then the film swings right back to its choppy contrivances, with a hard-to-swallow climax. Somewhere in the film, Mira is spotted at Paddington station, and you flash back to the near perfect Agatha Christie whodunit ‘4.50 From Paddington’, which is also about a crime being witnessed from a train compartment. Now that’s writing. Here, you can see the dialogue coming a mile off. At one point, Chopra’s character says ‘mujhe apna past nahin badalna’, and you know, before she opens her mouth, that she will say, ‘I want to change my present’.

And this one, even better, again from Chopra: “main usko kabhi nahin bataa paayi ki woh main nahin, mera wound tha (I could never tell him that it wasn’t me, it was my wound)”. You don’t say.

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