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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Mardaani 2 Movie Review: Rani Mukerji Packs a Punch… But Not So Much the Film

Rani Mukerji’s edge of the seat entertainer and much-awaited cop thriller Mardaani 2 has finally released, where she reprises the role of the fearless and committed Superintendent of Police, Shivani Shivaji Roy.

This time, Roy is posted in Kota, Rajasthan, where a rapist/serial killer is at large. With the crime rate on the rise in the town, where thousands of students flock every year for studies.

Shivani has been assigned with the challenging of finding the perpetrator, who is mocking the police force by challenging them and killing female students.

She is also personally targeted by the criminal, whom she has addressed as ‘a monster.’ Shivani falls into one of his traps but she may have found a way out too.

Like the first instalment, this too has definitely sparked a conversation on the ever-increasing violent crimes against young girls across the country.

Gopi Puthran paints a realistic portrait of Kota. Through the murky gullies and roads, he encompasses the city’s authenticity.

During the occurrence of the first crime, viewers are grabbed by the throat. The heinous and monstrous nature of the crime deeply unsettles the viewer and Puthran sets the scene well.

The narrative style is unique as we see the film’s antagonist – Sunny (played by Vishal Jethwa) break the fourth wall, explaining his psyche and actions as a serial rapist.

Such a storytelling style is different for a crime-thriller movie like Mardaani 2, even by including a young villain, the movie promises to cover a different aspect to a heinous crime like rape.

Despite Gopi’s initial premise, the direction goes erratic during the essential points in the movie. To a major extent, the writing is flimsy and has several loopholes.

For instance, the villain is hiding in a bathroom which is already locked from the outside, but yet the windows are intact, not even broken. So how did he get in?

Or another important scene when Shivani has managed to nab Sunny is aware of how he could brutally choke her with a thorned belt.

But in an attempt to look savvy, she makes a stupid mistake by overreacting in that situation and subsequently allowing time to escape.

I mean, if she knew he was a suspect on the first glimpse, then where was her handcuffs to use at the time of confrontation?

Such an essential scene could’ve been written more sharply and sensibly. If Sunny was to escape, then it could’ve been done in a different, more believable way.

We are shown RCB statistics like “More than 2000 rape cases are committed by under 18 years in India every year” and how “these are only the registered cases.”

However, when it comes to actually solve the brutal crimes against women, the storyline digresses into essaying the ‘juvenile’ villain as a political contract killer.

The whole importance of a major, rampant crime like rape gets diluted by other surrounding issues like casteism, politics, sexism and corruption.

Given the current news of horrific crimes in the media, one expected to see such cases being tackled with full sensitivity and focus… Like how the first Mardaani was fully centred on sex-trafficking.

But unfortunately, this is not the case here. In light of sensitive, impactful and thought-provoking procedurals headed by female cops (i.e Delhi Crime, Soni), this one comes across as pretentious.

Furthermore, the writing of Mukerji’s character lacks consistency. It feels as though this ‘Shivani Shivaji Roy’ is a stranger to the one we witnessed in the first part.

There seems to be a lack of oomph and intuition in this instalment. Whilst we see her make some applaud-worthy dialogues about empowerment, the character does not fully live up to this.

Since Roy solved such an abominable crime in part one, we expected her to be more fierce and tactful which is why it’s underwhelming.

All that said, Rani Mukerji endeavours her best to present Shivani with full force and it really is great to see her back on celluloid with what could’ve been a full-throttle, powerful film.

Ultimately, there’s only so much an actor can do when the writing is culpable. Regardless, her character will always be the need of the hour.

Vishal Jethwa is remarkable too as the baddie in Mardaani 2. His dialogue delivery, presence and expressions are foreboding and is a supremely talented actor who will definitely go places.

However, the writing of his character, again, is an issue. The reason why Tahir Raj Bhasin’s villainous avatar worked in Mardaani is that his demeanour was cool and ordinary.

It’s his actions which were foreboding and sent a chill down our spine. With Jethwa’s character, they attempt to make his role to look so demonic and while doing that, the novelty wears off.

By the second half, we become accustomed to his monstrosity that it becomes an annoyance rather than anger.

Since the movie kept reciting stats about ‘under-aged’ rapists, it would’ve been intriguing to see Sunny as an ordinary kid and what really drove his monstrous urges or even how his actions impact his family… This would’ve made for a more compelling watch.

Overall, Mardaani 2 is underwhelming as it lacks that slickness and impact of the first film. The sad part is not what this film offers, but what it really could have been.

The lacklustre writing/direction plays the villain, but nonetheless Rani Mukerji gives it her best shot as an actor and she is an unparalleled talent.

I just hope we get to see Shivani Shivaji Roy return with a better product next time!

⭐⭐.5/5 (2.5/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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