Mardaani

Rani Mukherji in "Mardaani."

To say that Pradeep Sarkar rectifies his twin blunders (“Laaga Chunari Mein Daag” and “Lafangey Parindey”) may be true, but that does not mean that this film is without a blemish.

First things first: the film is written and executed keeping Rani Mukerji’s charisma and talent in mind – only. This tilts the script heavily toward star-driven rather than character-driven cinema, especially in the end when Inspector Shivani Roy (Rani Mukerji) needlessly challenges the villain to a personal bout and yells as if she is a mini-Mary Kom.

The other blemish is that the film, while being gripping, crisp and focused too, still lacks drama. No, do not misunderstand me – I do not mean the “Singham Returns” kind of drama but the “Sarfarosh”-“A Wednesday” kind. Police procedural films need not be tepid just because they are realistic and non-masala.

The absence of songs is not felt at all, so we wonder why the awful and tritely worded promo number (Salim-Sulaiman-Kausar Munir) had to be added into the film as a loud and completely noisome element. On the other hand, Julius Packiam’s background score enhances the film. The editing (Sanjib Datta) expertly manages to overcome a few loose portions in the script, but the writing (Gopi Puthran), as the cliché goes, “leaves much to be desired” for a slick film of this genre.

Let us now come to the plot: Shivani, a daredevil cop, has practically adopted (though she still lives in an orphan girl shelter) girl named Pyari (Priyanka Sharma) who goes missing. As Shivani gets deeper and deeper into the investigation, a can of worms opens in the sex trafficking racket of children. She soon launches a personal war against the unseen, unknown mastermind Karan, a.k.a. Walt (Tahir Bhasin), and in the end, becomes the Nemesis for the whole chain of culprits involved in this sordid saga.

Our biggest complaint against the story is thus the concept that though Shivani does not know whether she will find Pyari as she pursues the evildoers, she becomes primarily motivated by Pyari – we would have respected the movie much, much more had Pyari not been known to Shivani personally, and just a missing child.

Also, Sarkar’s ploy to make the film more thrilling includes showing what eventually become unrelated issues to the developments in the plot – like shots of trucks laden with girls heading to a Northern desert (from where they are presumably sent overseas) while the kingpins stay in Delhi and yet have a big bunch of cohorts in Mumbai, who are so omnipresent that they kill anyone about to spill the beans. The script clearly does not care about logic, but in this “realistic” space, it should have.

So we just wonder at the sudden connection between the goons shown in the opening sequence and the main criminals, as the first ruffian is shown working for them in a sequence later! And another small girl just disappears from the movie after a couple of sequences – including a cake-cutting one - with Rani, and becomes a narrative red herring as we do not know if the villain will get after her to teach Rani a lesson!

The film is rescued by the high level of performances, beginning with Rani, who is natural and subtly hard-hitting. Tahir Bhasin as the villain, Mona is a brief cameo as his mother, and the supporting cops are first-rate. Anil George as Vakil is also effective, though Jisshu Sengupta as Shivani’s husband is too tepid, even given his role.

This could have been Rani’s “Kahaani” but the non-ambitious writer-director duo does not go anywhere near, and Rani turns it into her kahaani.

And one very sore point: the Indian censor board must be taken to task for giving this still-socially important film an “Adults Only” certification. Young, pre-teen girls must be made to watch this film, and a U/A tag was needed, especially when many other non-Adult films show so much of sleaze, verbal and physical violence and sexual deviance. Why does our censor board have to stay in the 18th century?

I do not know if this film has been given cuts, but as things stand, the content is correctly graphic yet not the kind that would be considered objectionable when the idea is – clearly - not to titillate but educate.

Rating: ***

Yash Raj Films’ Mardaani

Produced by: ADITYA CHOPRA

Directed by: PRADEEP SARKAR

Written by: GOPI PUTHRAN

Music: JULIUS PACKIAM, Promo song by SALIM-SULAIMAN

Starring: RANI MUKERJI, JISSHU SENGUPTA, TAHIR BHASIN, PRIYANKA SHARMA, SANJAY TANEJA, AKHILESH VERMA, VIKRANT KOUL, MIKHAIL YAWALKAR, MONA AMBEGAONKAR, ANIL GEORGE and others.

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