Time travel has long been a favourite of sci-fi authors, from HG Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’ to Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s ‘This is How You Lose the Time War’. Anurag Kashyap uses the intricate machinery of the genre to create a gripping and enticing thriller Dobaaraa, led by Taapsee Pannu.
The premise is thus: In 1996, a young boy Anay who lives in a colony in Pune’s Hinjewadi, witnesses a scuffle in his neighbour’s house through the window in a very The Woman in the Window-esque fashion. In the stormy night, when he steps out to investigate, he meets with tragedy. Several years later, during a similar storm in 2021, a woman Antara (Taapsee Pannu) connects with a young Anay through an old TV. Having heard the story of his accident from her friend, she saves him.
However, there are two basic rules to time travel: if you change the past, it might have devastating consequences, and never meet your doppelganger. After the fateful night, Antara wakes up in a reality she doesn’t recognise and where people barely recognise her (as she remembers). At first glance, it seems like she’s living the dream – a great house, her dream job, it’s all there. However, as we soon find out, for Antara better isn’t really what she wants.
The film then delves into questions of consequences and the time-space continuum and through Taapsee Pannu’s extremely believable performance as the frazzled, yet determined, woman on a mission, the film remains gripping and entertaining.
The only person who buys her version of events is a police inspector (Pavail Gulati).
Dobaaraa’s simple complexity and Shor Police’s background score keep the audience hooked even as the cast and plot might stumble before finding their ground. Saswata Chatterjee plays an interesting role to completion and stands out in his scenes when the focus isn’t on the leads.
This time-loop thriller is building a jigsaw puzzle around the audience, waiting for them to connect the pieces, while assuring them that it will all come together eventually. Dobaaraa isn’t without flaws: what Antara’s character has in urgency, she lacks in emotion.
Her character seems to be single-minded and motivated in her pursuit but the overwhelming, emotional stakes in her story take a back seat and it’s jarring.
Dobaaraa is a remake of the 2018 Spanish film Mirage and doesn’t shift itself to an Indian landscape (the most ‘Indian’ feature is RD Burman’s Aane Wala Pal Jane Wala Hai) but it does innovate its story. While the plot remains almost intact, it takes liberties in the way it solves the puzzles and the way some characters meld into Antara and Anay’s convoluted tale.
All these creative liberties (or lack thereof) work for the film’s favour.
The movie is less a suspense and more a thriller – some heavy hinting spoils important reveals and some stuff is beyond logic. But if you suspend belief and subscribe to the reality of the universe the film is set in, it’s enjoyable for the most part and its flaws are overshadowed by this success.
Rating: 3.5 Quints out of 5