MUMBAI —“Mardaani 2” is about as similar to “Mardaani” as “Kahaani 2” was to “Kahaani.” But there is a cardinal contrast: this sequel, unlike that one, is leagues ahead of the earlier film. Never mind if some aspects touch a not-so-logical chord.
Taking a real base of a juvenile delinquent (that’s almost an euphemism given the persona of the rogue!) taking to rape and murder, “Mardaani” franchise writer and this time debutant director Gopi Puthran takes a story of an amoral young boy, who is totally devoid of truth and emotion, and gives it the spin of a thriller.
The climax is almost as chilling as the 2004 “Ek Hasina Thi,” and is a fitting culmination of a crackerjack narrative that during its progress showcases several aspects of crime, delves succinctly on political patronage, also on the origin of a psychopathic mentality as well as the psychological cause of his asthma, and how a gender bias resides deep into North Indian psyches even as late as 2019.
Rajesh Sharma, playing a television anchor, gets a metaphoric sock punch in terms of searing home-truths in this aspect from ace cop Shivani Shivaji Roy (Rani Mukerji), the protagonist of the film, when she is called for his show “Kadwe Sawaal (Bitter Questions). This reminds us of a similar situation in the 2011 “Chillar Party,” a film with which the now-ubiquitous Sharma had coincidentally made his screen debut.
Puthran does take licenses with logic, but the chilling as well as inhuman behavior of a super-audacious young criminal who also has a monstrous ego makes for fast-paced, supremely gripping material, where not even a moment is wasted on inessentials.
As the crisp 105 minute film progresses, the man is slowly shown to become a human monster and we feel, right in the first half, that he must get what’s coming to him pronto. In the deadly cat-and-mouse game he is playing with Shivani, he is always that one step ahead. Rape, random killings, paid murder, explosions—everything is just a part of the day’s work for him.
But Shivani, transferred now from Mumbai to Kota, where the story is set, is as determined to get him. If nothing will stop him, nothing will de-motivate her either—neither a pugnacious colleague who she antagonizes, nor a boss who suddenly has to transfer her as she has erred in protocol. But the doughty lady decides to use the two days at her disposal before her replacement comes to finish this case. And that needs skilled deduction and action both.
Rani Mukerji’s contemporaries, some seniors and a few juniors have time and again tried to make “comebacks” with one or two movies, and almost always come croppers. They would do well to study the cerebral choices of this actress in maintaining her skills and connecting with the audience 23 years after she started out!
The actress is fabulous, all the more impressive as she is completely underplaying her part, and being an absolute natural. As someone who is not afraid of putting inflated and sexist male egos in place, and a woman who cares only about her work, Rani shows that it is not the banner of whom she is now the first lady, but the first-class, thriving and dedicated actor within her who essays these brilliantly-written characters far beyond their potential on paper.
A phenomenal discovery is Vishal Jethwa, as the villain. He is the first big-screen villain, probably since “Kahaani” and later “Secret Superstar” to etch out such a negative force: a hateful creature (that’s the right word), a man who hurts women only to destroy their self-esteem and honor, and who never tolerates a slight. Jethwa’s expressions and lines mince no words, and his excellent flair for disguise is something explained not by the script so much as by his cunningly depraved persona in totality.
From the supporting cast, we liked Sumeet Nijhawan as the hostile senior, but everyone makes a mark, though we must mention in particular Deepika Amin’s cameo as the doctor.
The technical side is flawless, and cameraman Jishnu Bhattacharjee, editor Monisha R Baldawa and the sound and VFX team deserve as much hosannas as John Stewart Eduri, who composes the brilliant and atmosphere-enhancing background score.
Puthran’s script is tight, no-nonsense to the point, his lines totally natural. And yet, the man scores highest as a director. For conceiving and presenting this film in the innovative way he has, the man deserves full marks and we welcome the latest directorial whizkid on the block.
Miss this film and you will lose out on one of the finest thrillers you will get to see. I cut off half a star only for the licenses freely taken with logic that possibly could have been worked upon without disturbing what the film is—a disturbing social and thought-provoking saga narrated with rare potency and passion.
Produced by: Aditya Chopra
Written & directed by: Gopi Puthran
Music: John Stewart Eduri
Starring: Rani Mukerji, Vishal Jethwa, Tejaswi Singh Ahlawat, Pratyaksh Rajbhatt, Prasanna Ketkar, Deepika Amin, Rajesh Sharma, Anurag Sharma, Shruti Bapna, Sunny Hinduja, Sumit Nijhawan, Richa Meena, Vikram Singh Chauhan & others