Sometimes, a movie experience is enriched when you have no foreknowledge of what the movie is about. A very last minute plan had us end up at the latest Bollywood release Te3n, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Nawazuddin Siddiqi and Vidya Balan. Don’t let the title of the movie put you off (even though it may remind you of Se7en!)
Right at the outset, we are told that Te3n is based on a Korean movie, Montage, which brings you the confidence that the source material is very good. With that in mind, I was not prepared for a movie that would bowl me over with it’s story and acting from the three leads.
Amitabh Bachchan plays John Biswas, a grandfather with a forgetful memory, who seeks to solve the mystery of her granddaughter who was abducted 8 years ago. His wife, Nancy, is tired of her husband making daily visits to the police station to find out if any new clues have come up.
On a routine visit to the fish market, John sees a deaf and mute girl who is wearing a hand knitted cap that belonged to his granddaughter. He follows her to the orphanage and finds out where the cap came from. This sets John out on a mission as he uncovers more clues which motivates him to get down to the bottom of the case, despite others around him telling him to give up.
Alongside this, the mysterious kidnapper strikes again and a 8-year-old boy is abducted. In steps Vidya Balan as Sarita, the efficient detective who is keen to work and solve this case. She shies away from relating this kidnapping case to John’s granddaughter kidnapping. “What happened back then is done and over with. This new case is not related,” she tells John.
Nawazuddin Siddiqi plays Father Martin, a priest who has taken on this job to somehow alleviate his guilt to his connection to John’s missing granddaughter. He has some connection to the missing granddaughter, but we are never about his intentions about this case. Father Martin also works in the police, and along with Sarita, they try to get down to the bottom of this case.
Te3N is one of those real slow burning movies and you need to show patience with it. Setting the movie in the eccentric city of Kolkatta does bring a sense of urgency and mysteriousness to the whole drama (from the dipping of the goddesses in the river to the famous bridge). There are so many red herrings throughout the movie, and in a true Hitchcockian style, everyone in the theater were second guessing who the kidnapper is.
The movie does drag a little in the beginning and slightly tested my patience (I think it had to do with John’s character moving about real slow), not to mention how the background songs slightly made the movie less “dark.” But once we are shown who the killer is pre-interval, the movie picks up the pace and takes us all on a roller coaster ride. There are a few intense, suspenseful scenes that ratcheted up the fear factor that is rare for an Indian movie.
With a subject nature like, one cannot help but think of a similar movie Kahaani (that had Vidya Balan and set in Kolkatta), and Te3n comes across as slightly inferior to Kahaani. Where Kahaani had an extremely shocking and satisfying conclusion which left all of us floored, Te3n’s ending was predictable and didn’t have an explosive finale as it could have had. Yes, it has character development, it has the intensity, it has the reality but the finale just didn’t live up to everything that preceded it.
However, what sets Te3n apart are the class acting by the three leads. Bachchan, Balan and Siddiqi all played their roles to the T. Nuanced, controlled and deep, we could all related to the external and internal dilemmas these three characters went through.The one thing to take home from the character of John Biswas is to never give up your passion, and continue to seek whatever you are looking for with patience and dedication.
They are all also playing Christians, and don’t conform to the stereotypes as seen in Bollywood movies. The director chooses to focus on these three characters with much minimalism and thankfully we are spared the high-speed car chases and screams that are a feature of whodunit movies. We are faced with a slow burning, brooding movie that focuses on the mystery and humanity of losing a child.
All in all, Te3n was a movie I went in with no foreknowledge and came out satisfied. It provided for a good evening out at the theater: suspenseful, solid and satisfying.
3.5 out of 5