Cast: Rani Mukerji, Vishal Jethwa
Director: Gopi Puthran
A movie preaching about a sensitive subject, should first learn to portray it correctly.
One of the most powerful, and problematic moments of Mardaani 2, directed by Gopi Puthran, comes towards the end, when two abused women decide to punish their abuser. The moment is rousing, with booming music and sleek direction. But it’s also troubling, because it unthinkingly promotes mob justice, which is NOT the message a movie involving the cops should promote in a country where the instances of lynching and vigilantism are increasing by the year.
And that’s the case with Mardaani 2, which tries to be both, a masala entertainer movie, and a serious social issue PSA about violence against women.
Rani Mukerji plays Shivani Roy, a cop whose heroics exposed a sex trafficking in the first movie, Mardaani. In Mardaani 2, she’s posted in Rajasthan, Kota, and is faced with an alarming crime of rape and murder against young women. The culprit, a twitchy, juvenile criminal named, Sunny, played by Vishal Jethwa, loathes women and lures them to various spots around the city. He rapes, and murders them in prolonged, sadistic manner. Shivani is left disturbed and angered by the crime. A game of cat and mouse ensues between the cop and the criminal and the plot of the movie encompasses Shivani’s attempts to catch Sunny and bring justice to his victims.
As Shivani Roy, Rani Mukerji gives a tour de force. She’s dignified, and stern, but never makes Shivani feel like she’s a robot without feeling. And when her placid façade finally cracks in a scene, she’ heartbreaking. Vishal Jethwa, as Sunny, does an exceptional job of making the audience hate him.
Gopi Puthran’s direction is slick and spare. A late night confrontation between Shivani and Sunny escalates from inside of a car, turns into an erratic chase to a bridge, and then continues underwater as the characters try to struggle and take hold of each other despite their injuries. But, some of his writing choices are baffling, and even exploitative. Why, for example, are we subjected to so many images of women’s abused bodies, when the point of Sunny’s animalistic behavior has already been made? A movie about sexual abuse should be made with sensitivity towards the victim, but Gopi’s choice to focus on their bruises, seems like a very cheap shortcut to get an immediate response from the audiences. If you don’t trust your audiences to empathize with a victim of rape, then why do you expect them to take you seriously when you put the statistics and call for serious action?
Then, another one of Gopi’s bizarre writing choice is, turning Sunny into a criminal genius who can get away with murder easily for a long time, and persuade people to do his bidding. Again, the reality of most serial rapists and murderers is their inbred misogyny and narcissism. Why then Glorify? Why should they be defined by malicious intelligence that gives them credit, when they can be portrayed with a more nuanced perspective that understands their nature?
And yet, Gopi’s message about violence against women is strong, and sincere, and the cast pull through even the most objectionable scenes to bring a cohesive statement that it is high time that this barbarism must be stopped for once and all. I may also add, justice should always be decided by law, and not the people of the land, however, heinous a crime is.