‘A witless thriller so far removed from reality yet so consumed by its own self-seriousness, no amount of slick photography, soaring soundtrack or steady supply of conspiracy can salvage its tepid material,’ notes Ritu Nandal.
A single take shot inside the prison zooms in on a burly guy’s back as he pummels one inmate after another until it’s time to reveal the face. It’s Aditya Roy Kapoor sporting a brand-new beard and body trying to fit into shoes Suniel Shetty wore out nearly three decades ago.
After all those months of pull-ups and protein shakes, Kapoor is unwilling to confine his sinewy frame inside cloth or logic. As good an excuse as any for him to pounce on his fellow convicts unprovoked?
Things become a lot more banal and brainless as we step foot inside Director Mohit Suri’s Malang. Here’s a witless thriller so far removed from reality yet so consumed by its own self-seriousness, no amount of slick photography (Vikas Sivaraman), soaring soundtrack (Mithoon, Ved Sharma) or steady supply of conspiracy (Aseem Arrora) can salvage its tepid material.
A series of clichés are unlocked after a guy in a maroon hoodie (Kapoor) goes on a killing spree, openly challenging a devious cop (Anil Kapoor) and his straitlaced colleague (Kunal Kemmu), on Christmas eve. Men in khaki are periodically bumped off between a series of flashbacks harking back to happier times.
Malang is set in Goa — Bollywood’s go-to destination for quirky and quaint or all things sinister — rave parties, free flow of drugs, hustlers and peddlers, hippy aspirations and self-styled lawmen.
Inclined towards the latter, Suri turns a one-night stand between two stoned strangers (Kapoor and Disha Patani) into a no-strings attached affair that is ultimately so clingy, there’s even a braided bracelet to emphasise their bond.
One’s parents are divorced, another’s dead — just the sort of detail you need to understand their aversion to commitment if not enormous income that affords such bohemian lifestyle.
Considering they lodge at fancy resorts, indulge in pricey adventure sports, buy every possible drug, don’t repeat a single outfit and keep mumbling ‘sukoon‘ every few seconds, Aiyashi would be a better title for Malang.
Adrenalin junkies by day, pill popping by night — just as their liaison starts to resemble a glossy commercial for the joys of substance abuse — quite unlike the brand of Goa tourism Dil Chahta Hai promotes and Malang scoffs at, a dreadlocks sporting Eli Avram drops in to offer a word of caution. Her character is simply there to appear and vanish for a contrivance to take effect.
If Patani plays a typical Mohit Suri free-spirited fantasy whose bucket list includes random sex without changing a single expression, Kapoor goes from fun to furious with equal dispassion.
Malang expects us to invest in these cardboards but makes no effort to create characters we will feel mildly for even when we know better.
If one half of its soul-less slog is a pair of swimsuit models glorifying rash as romantic, the other is a drudging action drama ripping off Netflix’s Daredevil for its violent vigour — the corridor brawl, the prison rumble, pounding a man’s head against the car door.
Suri’s taste for creepy antagonists and twisted psychology wants to make some warped point about masculinity and misogyny. But by painting a sicko’s fantasy of equating rape and murder as dramatic imagery against poetic flames and all, he defeats it entirely.
Around Malang‘s increasingly daft schemes and glaring superficiality, not just audience but actors appear to be losing interest too. Kunal Kemmu sees no point in trying after a while and does what everyone else is doing — that is one more chiselled physique for the Malang roster.
Anil Kapoor holds on to his shirt as well some of his dignity. The actor has endured worse and uses all his survivor fervour to take joy in as the dopehead cop sporting red sunglasses and tripping over the Anamika ditty — Aaj Ki Raat Koi Aane Ko Hai.
If only we could all have what he’s smoking.