“The Girl on the Train” is a Bollywood adaptation of Paula Hawkins’s 2015 novel of the same name, which was made into a 2016 English language film starring Emily Blunt (“A Quiet Place”). The novel was a superbly paced page-turner with surprising twists. The English-language adaptation was relatively unremarkable, with a drab cinematic palette, a paint by numbers screenplay and some great acting from Blunt.
The 2021 Bollywood version is anything but drab. The movie features musical numbers and bright colors. Parineeti Chopra (“Ladies vs Ricky Bahl”) plays Mira Kapoor, an alcoholic divorcée who rides the same London train route every day and becomes obsessed with Nusrat (Aditi Rao Hydari, “Boss”), a woman whose house sits next to the tracks. When Nusrat goes missing, Mira is drawn into a web of murderous uncertainty and deceit.
Mira is outrageously drunk for almost the entire film and stumbles through London waving around (and chugging from) a handle of vodka. During one bender, she goes into the club bathroom and, mad at Nusrat, writes “BITCH” on the mirror in lipstick and screams about murdering her. This goes on for a few minutes.
Mira’s alcoholism is so over-emphasized that she even explains to a prospective employer exactly why she lost her previous job and hasn’t been able to find work for a year — after which she is promptly denied the position. At least Mira lives her truth. For the latter half of the movie, Mira limps around London, unbothered with a Halloween-style bleeding gash in her forehead, which would get any real person stopped before they even got a block from home.
Yet, even with her (extremely) visible drinking problem, Mira’s friend still takes her out to party. Luckily, the song played on the dance floor matches her mood: “I feel cheated, I feel mad, I feel burned, I feel like a sad fool.” Same, Mira.
The movie takes every aspect of the book to its utter extreme. The emotional bombast and complete lack of subtlety start out funny but become exhausting and ultimately painful. “The Girl on the Train” flies off the rails, does a barrel roll and explodes in a shower of meaningless, manufactured hyperbole. Luckily, since the film is on Netflix, one doesn’t have to leave the theater — escape is just a click away.
There’s another banger towards the movie’s end: “I feel defeated.” Again, same. While occasionally (and unintentionally) hilarious, “The Girl on the Train” is nearly unwatchable. It also feels a tad disrespectful, too, considering how serious topics like mental illness, alcoholism and assault are “dealt” with.
What makes this adaptation different from Hawkins’s novel, other than bad dialogue, some stupid added twists and a few musical numbers? It still has the same core story. While the 2021 film is silly, is there anything that makes it any less introspective than the novel or Hollywood production?
By inflating its emotions 200%, the Bollywood film reveals the moral ambiguity, perhaps even emptiness, at the heart of the preceding versions. While the other iterations are dressed up with a stream of consciousness and, in the film’s case, Hollywood sheen, they still take a relatively laissez-faire, surface-level approach to issues that require more than that.
Essentially, “The Girl on the Train” is a Hitchcock-esque mystery dependent on female pain, without much to say. I’m not saying that thrillers are necessarily problematic, but there is something odd about using misogynistic violence to serve purely entertainment purposes, with musical numbers or without.
Daily Arts Writer Andrew Warrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.