When Vidya Balan started the then entirely new and different genre of female lead films — with films like Ishqiya, The Dirty Picture and Kahaani — it was okay if those films shouted out that a woman can do everything a man can. Not much has changed in our society since then. Of course, a lot has changed in the privileged society, but that’s a very small percentage of the Indian population. While we need todays female lead films to educate the masses on equality, we don’t want it to be rubbed on our faces. And that is one of the weaknesses of Gopi Puthran’s Mardaani 2. Because not every story can describe a woman as Sita and an evil man as Ravana, even though woman and man may possess the qualities of these deities – good or bad.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for women centric films and films promoting feminism, after all that is the need of the hour. But because there have been so many films in the same genre, we need to now do it subtly. Talking about bra straps and cooking at home are methods of the past. We need something new to keep the fire burning.
Puthran weaves an interesting premise – a woman cop is out to chase a young man who goes on raping and murdering women. He also writes interesting characters, and what works the most in his favour is that both his protagonist and antagonist deliver great performances. But the film, falls short. From the very first scene, we are in the film, there is little set up. So there is no element of being bored because of too much set up. But once Rani Mukerji’s Shivani Shivaji Roy comes into the scene, everything seems, not just predictable, but easy.
You expect the cat and mouse chase between Roy and Sunny (the antagonist, played by an impressive Vishal Jethwa) to be intelligent, but it becomes a little clumsy, owing to two factors. One, Roy knows everything. If there is a problem, she has the solution, she can’t go wrong. Two, Sunny keeps talking into the camera, trying to creep us out, which works initially, but soon becomes boring.
Mardaani 2 is a crime thriller, and what it had on it’s side was good actors, a great cinematographer (Jishnu Bhattacharjee) and tight editing (by Monisha Baldawa). That and a good script is all a thriller needs in order to make it work. But Puthran falls short in writing an efficient screenplay and also a perfect antagonist. In the first film, director Pradeep Sarkar and his writer, Puthran, had created a perfect antagonist in Karan Rastogi, played brilliantly by Tahir Raj Bhasin. In the second part, even though Jethwa acts as if he knows his job, the writing of Sunny is more flawed than he artistically should be. Where Puthran also lacks a little is in the writing of Roy. I don’t have many complaints about the character, but she’s a YRF heroine cop, a far cry from what Tabu was in Drishyam or Shefali Shah in Netflix’s Delhi Crime.
Performance wise, Rani Mukerji is at the best of her game, yet again. She plays Shivani with great conviction. She’s solving cases, fighting villains, protecting people and what not. She does best, what she does best – act. Vishal Jethwa as Sunny is revelation. He’s too good, especially with his eyes. That he’s handed over a weakly written character doesn’t come in the way of his talent.
One of the many geniuses of Mardaani 2 is the cinematography and setting. You see the genius in Puthran’s writing when he begins the film on Dusshera and ends it on Diwali, saying that there’s always going to be good that prevails. But otherwise, most of his screenplay is repetitive. Had it not been for Mukerji and Jethwa’s talent, this film wouldn’t have been what it is.
All in all, even with a weak screenplay, you’ll end up rooting for Mardaani 2, probably because of the performances. I left the theatre thinking of Mukerji and the third instalment in the series.
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