Timing is everything. At 136 minutes, Te3n—an ambling dark thriller—could have done with reining in and tugging harder at its indulgent pace.
The team of the 2012 hit film, Kahaani, is back in Kolkata, along with filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh who turns producer with this one. John Biswas (Amitabh Bachchan) is an old middle-class man living with his wheelchair-bound wife. They lost their granddaughter, Angela, eight years ago in a kidnapping case.
While his wife has come to terms with it, John is beset with overwhelming guilt. Sleepless nights, forgotten household chores and a daily visit to the police station turn the guilt into purpose. He is focussed on solving the mystery and finding the kidnapper to avenge losing his loved one—listening to the old, fateful ransom call recording in a loop, looking for the tiniest sliver of evidence and thus hope, becoming a sleuth himself in the process. The time reference seems to go back and forth, with Google search alongside landlines, a rickety two-wheeler scooter, cassettes, CDs, tape recorders and fountain pens....
Father Martin Das (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is a policeman with a commitment issue who turns into a priest. He warns—in jest—couples against getting married before reading out their vows. Angela's case that brought Das and Biswas together, also drove them apart in the years that followed. The men deal with the unsolved issue differently—Das turns to god, Biswas, to himself.
Sarita Sarkar (Vidya Balan) is a driven cop who tries to convey a sense of astuteness and compassion to her profession. Das, who 'gave up', gets pulled back into cop mode when Sarkar requests his help when another young boy goes missing. The subtle chemistry between the two set against the unfolding of the case points to some past unfinished personal business.
Biswas obsessively follows any possible clue and the mystery trail on his own steam, that includes giving up on the few remaining material possessions, while Das, looking heavenwards, ultimately finds himself sucked into Biswas and Sarkar's relentless pursuit of the case.
Te3n is based on a 2013 South Korean film, Montage,where a grandfather, a mother and a cop team up to solve the mystery when the former two lose their loved ones in a similar manner. Continuing with the trend in Bollywood, the common man as hero is back in this one. The journey for justice becomes one of faith and forgiveness. But it's less edge-of-the-seat thriller and more a yawn-every-60-minutes.
Watch out for the cinematic oeuvre, the vibrant city of Kolkata fits in with the theme of the film, which is shot in subtle, muted, reflective yet warm tones. While the veterans deliver expected performances, the script and editing could have done with more throb.
Director: Ribhu Dasgupta
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Vidya Balan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui