Express press service
Parineeti Chopra says she surprised herself by choosing the screenplay for The Girl on the Train. Adapted from Paula Hawkins’ bestseller, the next film follows an alcoholic woman in London who is embroiled in a murder investigation. It’s a clear departure from the happy, crazy characters Parineeti usually plays.
“Our director Ribhu (Dasgupta) saw all my previous work and yet gave me this role,” says Parineeti. “The fact that I’m not the obvious cast for this kind of movie and world is exactly what turned me on.” The character had already been braved by Emily Blunt in the Hollywood adaptation of Tate Taylor in 2016. Like Emily, Parineeti did not put her role to the full, signaling her fainting spells with gestures and expressions. “Unfortunately, there was no day to drink,” she laughs. “I don’t think we would have survived it.”
The Girl on the Train is the latest international thriller to be officially adapted into Hindi. The American book and film are quite popular in India. With some of the audience already familiar with the plot, how surprised can they be?
Ribhu addresses this question by citing a recent example, Badla from 2019. “It was a ‘real remake’ of The Invisible Guest but it went really well. Everyone knew the highlight. I think as long as you make the ride fun, intense, edgy – with great characters and performances – it’s more than enough to watch a two hour movie.
Ribhu had read Hawkins’ novel at the launch and wanted to adapt it in Hindi. This was before the Hollywood version was made. A few years later, he was hired by Reliance Entertainment (which had produced his film Te3n) to do a remake. “Since this is an Indian adaptation, a lot of things had to change,” recalls the director. “The palette, the characters… they had to be different.”
One immediate change he made was to bring the set back to London (the Emily Blunt star was set in New York). Cast member Aditi Rao Hydari originally suggested Calcutta (“I imagined a Bengali girl on a balcony…”). But Ribhu had already shot Michael and Te3n in town, and wanted to get the book right. “London is a big part of the unfolding of history,” says Parineeti, who had lived in the UK as a student. “I don’t think it could have been sorted out elsewhere.”
In the film, Aditi tries out the mysterious murder victim who turns the plot around. The actor has done thrillers before, but is no such geek. “Honestly, I really like love stories,” Aditi says. “I believe that everything that is hectic happens because of love. Whether it’s a thriller or murder mystery, the impetus is always love.
Hawkins’ novel centers around three female characters who are linked by a crime. While increasing the thrills, the book addresses issues of domestic violence and manipulation. Parineeti says the subtext is best left without an accent. “I may be a minority in my thinking process, but I feel that the more labels you put on things, the more you make the problem worse. We should talk about it, we should show it in movies, and we should just let (the change) happen organically.
“The film happens to be about three girls,” Aditi adds. “We need to treat it like a story and not call it ‘woman-oriented’ or ‘heroine-driven’. The more we use these terms, the more we make a difference. The train girl was cordoned off at the end of 2019 – in time for the first lockdown in the UK. Unlike Parineeti, who had a grueling schedule, Aditi and her co-star Avinash Tiwary were free to wander around town. “We spent the first two weeks figuring out where to find the best bullet coffee,” says Avinash. “After that, we went to lovely dinners in London with the best desserts.”
The Girl on the Train is released on Netflix on February 26.
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