BANGALORE: Before we get into whether Mohit Suri’s Ek Villain has snatches of the Korean thriller I Saw a Devil, or shades of Jack Reacher, let us first deal with Remo Fernandes. Yes, Remo of O Meri Munni and Humma and countless memories of Goan susegad. So here he is, trying to fill the shoes of characters like Lala Jamal Khan (played by Anupam Kher in Mahesh Bhatt’s 1991 cult hit Aawargi) and Malik (played by Ashutosh Rana in Suri’s own 2007 film, Awarapan) and Khan (Gulshan Grover in Gangster, a 2006 Bhatt production directed by Anurag Basu). He is replaying the old Bhatt motif of a ganglord who shelters a young boy and uses him for his own criminal ends till a woman enters the picture and disturbs the equation. In a key confrontation scene, he faces his protege Guru (Siddharth Malhotra), hands over a gun to him and screams, “Shut me, shut me (not as in,’shut the door,’ but ‘shoot me’ with one o missing!) and you realise just how a simple case of miscasting can ruin a moment.
And Kamaal R Khan, yes the KRK of Bigg Boss infamy, as a pivotal provocateur? Really? His character evokes revulsion and derision quite naturally but the actor sets your teeth on edge because he is an insufferable ham and hard to watch. The film is littered with moments that have the same effect as miscast actors. Like that scene where the hero and the villain are at each other’s throats. And one of them, for all practical purposes, dies. Then suddenly, one life saving injection is jabbed into his heart, and he then sputters to life as the movie goers titter with mirth. Or the train sequence where the spent hero is watching the love of his life disappear but the audience, by now, aware of the director’s bent of mind, giggles in anticipation of the miracle, that they know will unfold now and sure enough, it does.
And a bar dancer right in the middle of a dramatic moment bursts into an existential rant on a brightly lit stage followed by KRK on a pool float. Editing, anyone?
The problems with the film are many. The mass murderer for instance could be Elliot Rodgers because he too kills to avenge himself against women who ‘do not treat him well’ or as in this case, inexplicably shout at him, berate him, belittle him. He is also a bit like Michael Douglas in Falling Down (1993) who rampages across a city, using his personal life as an excuse for violence. The way murder is committed here is like flies are being swatted and all because a man is continuously being mistreated by his wife and wants to let off some stress.
The other issue is Suri’s unwillingness to come out of Mahesh Bhatt’s shadow because his films derive most of their heft from the maker’s oeuvre. Throw in a plot twist from a Korean film, a little Jack Reacher and a quote by Martin Luther King Jr and the stage is set for another block-buster.
The story of crime and redemption, and of a dark, brooding criminal drawn to the light of a good woman is oft-repeated in Bhatt land though it has its moments. Shraddha Kapoor, replaying Geet from Jab We Met and Urmila from Drohi, thankfully pulls it off. Nothing about her is derivative and she has a rare vulnerability and unaffected innocence. Both work for her in the film as does the strange connection she shares with her villain. The girl in the next seat was incessantly crying so the tragic undertones obviously worked as also the digital butterflies, the dancing peacocks and the snowflakes. The love story is poignant and Malhotra is packaged as a Bacchanesque hero when his face is framed against a clip from Shehenshah. He is most effective in his silence but his dialogue delivery still needs work. Riteish Deshmukh surprises with his dangerously still eyes, his diabolic unpredictability and the malice with which he speaks his lines. Watch it if you must for a few messages about brutalised children and the inevitability of life lessons.
The violence at times is gratuitous, the music is soothing and one just hopes that Suri’s next will have less of Mahesh Bhatt and more of him.
Verdict-A one time watch for those who are curious about the premise.
Film: Ek Villain
Director: Mohit Suri
Cast: Sidharth Malhotra, Riteish Deshmukh, and Shraddha Kapoor