MALANG : MOVIE REVIEW
RATING : 2.5 STARS / 5 ( ABOVE AVERAGE )
DIRECTOR : MOHIT SURI
CAST : DISHA PATANI, ADITYA ROY KAPOOR, KUNAL KHEMU , ANIL KAPOOR
HINDI ( ENGLISH SUBTITLES AVILABLE ) , 2020
N.B : This review is dedicated to my best friend Vishaal, who tortured me with initial threats to reveal the suspense of the finale, but who eventually decided out of the kindness of his heart not to do so.
Teaser snatches on Netflix showed racy vistas an ace ad film-maker would be proud of. A hunk and a chick paint the ocean doubly blue as they cavort, canoodle, and water-ski. The plot promises intrigue – a man is bent on revenge after being separated from his lover.
Director Mohit Suri, who’s justly renowned for his shot-taking, serves up ample evidence again of his skills at scene planning and shot progression. Aditya Roy Kapoor surprises with what look like decades of gym work compressed into rippling muscles, and there’s Disha Patani with her winsomely fragile appeal – an even more delicate version of Shraddha Kapoor.
An action sequence that was supposed to be very impressive kickstarts the tale. A highly muscular tall man goes on a tiger rampage through prison making short work of the dozens of inmates who lunge at him. It’s supposed to look like a one-take shot following the marauder as he takes on his assailants through the passageways, halls and out into the courtyard. But every time a body-to-body fight occurs, the fast-forward button is pressed as if the fight choreographer and director were insecure about the quality of their fight choreography. What could have been great comes off as artificial.
We see that a coterie of cops are being bumped off one by one by the man who escaped jail. An intercut story track shows the flashback as a twosome – Sara ( Disha Patani ) and Advait ( Aditya Roy Kapoor) avail of Goa’s delights : ransacking the seashore, grooving to rave parties and ritually tripping on a trove of illicit drugs. Sara’s death wish vis-à-vis her regular use of psychedelic poison only skids to a stop by a force of nature. Her dalliance with Advait slowly becomes the proverbial star-crossed one…
Of the cops, the two front-line ones are Michael Rodrigues ( Kunal Khemu ) and Anjaney Agashe ( Anil Kapoor). Michael is the cool-headed by-the-book operator while his senior colleague Agashe is a trigger-keen cowboy whose mantra is the expediency of extra-judicial killings.
Suri is so carried away by his chutzpah for attractive shot-taking that he believes the background music should convulse along with wild steps to achieve a sort of tandem that makes sense only to him. He therefore holds a live wire up the backside of his BGM guy – the result is overboiled background music that wrecks one’s ears and ruins the first half of the movie. Action sequences and thrill-inducing stalking that could have vastly benefitted from silence or the edgier quieter background score of experts like Salim-Suleiman, end up drowning in sonic blares. Mohit Suri also finds his limitation in action sequences in more places than one, like a blacked-out corridor filled with gun-toting assailants between Advait and his quarry. That sequence is plain lousy in its planning, the shortcoming all the more costly in a film that banks on thrills at the expense of solid dramaturgy. In the second half mercifully, the background score behaves itself and gives us some reprieve.
A plot-driven film like this has little place to hide when the proceedings wear thin. The songs are all forgettable – a conspicuous contrast to the chart-busters of Suri’s previous films like Aashiqui 2 and Kalyug. At the story’s crucial juncture involving the incident that ignites Advait’s vendetta, the proceedings lack ruthless bite. We already know something bad is going to happen and to put that event three-quarters of the way into the film, robs the story of valuable tension. The film-makers may argue that they did so because that segment renders the valuable service of showing the main villain only towards the finishing stages. Apparently the option of hiding his face and showing it only towards the end was something they either did not consider or considered and rejected. Their decision also serves the convenient purpose of giving a key character more screen-time – again a dubious decision that the director has chosen to accept at the expense of diluting narrative pull.
The romantic angle between Sarah and Advait may not be the stuff of Laila Majnu but it will do. Patani and Kapoor show comfort in their scenes of togetherness. Both are easy on the eye, so the optics compensate when the chemistry doesn’t bring the roof down.
I felt sorry for Anil Kapoor, not for the paycheck or the mainstream exposure he again receives, but for the utter uselessness of his persona here which is perpetually in hypomanic third gear – contrast it to the boldness of his atypical portrayal in ‘ My Wife’s Murder’ which was a such a refreshing difference from the handsome charismatic hero of the 80s and 90s. Kunal Khemu plays his arc with a dead-on straight-arrow seriousness that is not inherently a bad choice, however some smart variations could have easily lifted it up a couple of notches.
Aditya Roy Kapoor fits the bill as the wounded charging avenger, but evidently he’s worked far harder at his muscles than his acting chops. This is his second collaboration with the director, and if Kapoor is to reach better thespian heights, I suggest he find other helmers. See how another tall young actor Abhishek Bacchan’s average acts hit deeper notes in his roles with directors like Mani Ratman ( ‘Yuva’) or Ram Gopal Varma ( ‘Sarkar’) – a different sear of intensity not necessarily meaning more glowering. Disha Patani has similarly instant good looks as her co-star, but she is blessed with a wonderful physiognomy that sports beauty as well something else, a poignancy and delicacy ( somewhat akin to Rose Byrne ) that makes just a standard of good acting automatically get elevated into excellence.
The ending packs some surprises alright, but Suri fritters away Vikas Sivaraman’s excellent cinematography and his own solid directorial technique with over-spiced melodrama, dodgy narrative choices and uninspired direction of his actors. Yeah sure he can film a snappy scene but that amounts to a hill of beans when it steeps more and more in various other kinds of cinematic mediocrity.
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