Mohit Suri’s Malang is like a joint not rolled tight enough with gaps of air that are clearly visible. Clever casting decisions and melodious tracks prove to be the only silver linings in the film which otherwise goes into a bad trip, due to a poorly written plot full of male violence, directed in a specific but redundant way. It does take a feminist spin towards the end, but by then, it’s far too late.
The film starts with the protagonist, Advait’s (Aditya Roy Kapur) trap muscles. The scene then continues into an action sequence as animated as the movies from the South, wherein all it takes is ONE punch for all the villains to go flying around. Advait manages to gets out of prison after a brawl (like really?) and being betrayed by the police system, is on a killing spree with the Goa police as his target. While he kills these people with not only determination but also ease, the rebel cop Agashe (Anil Kapoor) and his rather conventional colleague Michael (Kunal Khemu) try to figure out the cause and pattern behind the killer’s motives.
We are then taken into a flashback which aims to tell the audience the motivation behind Advait’s current sense of being, which becomes the narrative of the film. Sara (Disha Patani) bumps into Advait (a doping vagabond on a backpacking trip) at a rave party in Goa. Their connection has literal sparks symbolized by the fireworks in the sky. They have a fling, only for Advait to realise the morning after, that he was part of a ‘to-do list’ for Sara. Disha Patani seems to put in no effort into the character, and the writing just further aids her. She ends up going against her own promises and stays back with Advait. Their bond deepens between endless joints and other adventure activities, an idea Suri might have borrowed from his previous thriller Ek Villain (2014).
The screenplay, written by Aniruddha Guha, intercuts between the past: that feels nothing but two people with gorgeous physique who are on a utopian holiday, and the present: that is a cat and mouse chase. There is however a sub-plot within the present narrative, that has its roots in the past, those of impotence, which is conveniently accredited to the victim’s mother, because of course, women are the reason behind a man’s failure right?
The biggest weapon for the film, is empathy and that’s exactly what they don’t explore. One finds it difficult to feel empathy even for Advait, who plays the anti-hero in this film. The scarce writing, forced plot, punchy dialogues and a really dragged storyline that established no connection with the audience, fails to hit the mark overall in which even Vikas Sivaraman’s attractive cinematography can’t save the movie.
However, somewhere within these 134 minutes, it is a story about the male psychology which as a result of masculinity and its stereotypes within society, then lead to violent actions. But Mohit Suri doesn’t take that route. He uses the same old ideas of manhood he set out to critique, one of them being the sacrifice of female characters to advance the narrative for his protagonist, only to spin it at the end.
The characters of Michael and Agashe, could have been much more than you see on screen, and just to give this film a more eerie tone in its conveyance, they fall short on the writing and as a result on the screen. Even though Kunal Khemu has done a convincing job, Aditya and Disha seemed to have just worked on their physique and hoped to let that do the trick for them. The character of Sara even in warmest moments has a constant look of terror on her face, and otherwise has a straight face to resonate every emotion ever written for her. Aditya pulls off the vagabond well, however his rugged look and intense beard does not help in the overall portrayal of the anti-hero.
Suri is infamous for making suspense thrillers like Kalyug (2005), Awarapan (2007) and Murder 2 (2011) to name a few. Over the years, with the shift in the stories and narrative of the industry, Suri’s template hasn’t changed. The assertion of toxic masculinity has been a distinct feature throughout his filmography and Malang is no exception to that as it offers nothing more and falls rather short as it is a story that had certain meatiness but the Bollywood-isation of it just ruins it.