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'Animal' movie review: Tight script more essential than tight slap, no?

Updated on: 01 December,2023 09:31 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Mayank Shekhar |

'Animal' movie review: There’s Ranbir, with long hair and motorbike, in this man-child role, think of him as Sanju (2018)—except, not in a comedy, which is what Raju Hirani turned that alpha-male story into. Let’s say, these are chapters left over from that film, if you may

'Animal' movie review: Tight script more essential than tight slap, no?

Ranbir Kapoor and Anil Kapoor in a still from Animal

Movie: Animal
Director: Sandeep Reddy Vanga
Actors: Ranbir Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Rashmika Mandanna
Rating: 2/5

Knock out the final, farty fifty minutes of this 202-minute film—including Bobby Deol barging in to make his pointless entry, for whatever follows—and you may still have much to talk about. The filmmakers could knock those portions out. How does the audience?

Best, therefore, to mull over Animal, as we knew it, to begin with. Its supposed point/purpose gets explained by the hero (Ranbir Kapoor) to the heroine (Rashmika Mandanna, mumbling her lines), quite early on.

He tells her that before civilization, when the Early Man hunted in packs, there was the sought-after alpha male, that women wished to birth children with, while they cooked and cleaned, and he brought food to the table.

The alpha male, naturally garnering all the female attention, as a result, was hated by all other men, physically subservient to him. The latter, in turn, thought up useless stuff like poetry to charm the women, with a bunch of beautiful lies they could never deliver on.

This conversation occurs in the film, when the said heroine is about to get married to a beta/gamma/delta type, it would seem. She changes her plans overnight. Goes with the hero. The alpha male reigns supreme. That’s the Ranbir Kapoor to be attracted to in this movie.

This rich, bratty hero grows up with daddy issues—whatever those are, besides that his hardworking father (solid Anil Kapoor) has no time for him, and mother adores him to death. He fearlessly settles scores, knowing might is right.

The boy can’t stand pretentious folks. He’s drawn to other ‘alphas’ he probably loves to surround himself with. He deems himself ordained to protect his family, including his two sisters.

Because there’s Ranbir, with long hair and motorbike, in this man-child role, think of him as Sanju (2018)—except, not in a comedy, which is what Raju Hirani turned that alpha-male story into. Let’s say, these are chapters left over from that film, if you may.

The Punjabi ‘angry young man’ here is named Rannvijay, in short, Vijay. His worldview, including those to do with women, is so archaic—I was viscerally intrigued by this character, therefore the film.

Simply because it’s so obviously bait-like, politically incorrect at a time, if there’s ever been another, where being gloriously incorrect on anything, starting with politics, of course, seems risky enough to be nearabout impossible. Even alphas, along with all other Greek alphabets, could savage you like animals for this.

And it’s not like you have to agree with this character, or his ways. Which is the reason, I noticed, audiences wholly laughing at him in my cinema. As and when he drops his inglorious gems on how the wife must be kept in control, down to how men mustn’t shave their pubic hair!

That is precisely what happened with director Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s directorial debut, Arjun Reddy (2017), in Telugu, that he subsequently remade, scene for scene, in Hindi, as Kabir Singh (2019).

The only issue I had with that film were those giving it a deeper moral meaning—of what such borderline misogyny as commercial success means to Indian society.

I could only see people in splits while that movie was on, as well—enjoying the songs, loving the anti-hero’s performance. For instance, Wolf of Wall Street or so many of Martin Scorsese movies, from the POV of their lead characters, could be deemed misogynistic. Doesn’t mean those who loved them are.

Shahid Kapoor starred as Kabir Singh in the Arjun Reddy remake. If Animal had been made in Telugu, it would certainly have had a Hindi version.

Ranbir is the hero in both languages. Makes complete sense. Except, Animal isn’t in the same zone as the strongly character-driven KS/AR. It’s in fact closer to the gun-fest, mad-actioner, Bloody Daddy (2023), that Shahid did later.

Ranbir has similarly been through a gun factory to overhaul his chocolate boy image—ripping his clothes off, beating up the baddies over merciless hand-to-hand combat, spraying bullets like pesticide; surviving a few, like it doesn’t matter…

He’s just entered the Salman genre, sideways—with a picture that gives off pretenses of a family plus relationship drama. The genre in the movie literally switches with a plane going up, while the hero-heroine are inside, celebrating their honeymoon.

Out comes the bearded hero, with a guerilla army behind him. Transformation is complete. Even emotionally, you can tell, Ranbir hasn’t given it his all this much since Rockstar (2011). It’s his show.

But this Macho Man Ranbir Savage stage is also when the test of steely patience begins. You can tell the filmmakers were allowed scale—they just didn’t know where to take it with a storyline.

And you start to notice the setting, and wonder what this is about. It’s not a gangster/underworld film, which can still legitimately belong to the political space.

The hero’s dad, world’s richest man types, runs a steel company, named Swastika. The hero gives a motivational speech to workers, raising his hand like a Nazi heil. Of course, he’s not that.

So then, who is he, when he isn’t bumping off blokes by the dozen with a “Made in India aatma-nirbhar” machine gun that vanquishes faceless enemies with no place to hide.

Let’s go back to the film’s supposedly original intent then—of a world before civilization. In the movies of the past, we had cops inevitably entering late into the scene of crime.

This world’s got no cops, altogether. The women are practically muted. Yeah: “It’s a man’s world!” I get that. But, man, who are these men? And when does this stop?

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