From the opening scene of Malang, you know director Mohit Suri’s intention: to create a larger-than-life hero out of his leading man. As a camera tracks around the back of a prison inmate, he systematically and without effort pummels his way through repeated attacks by other prisoners. He rips off a ragged shirt and exposes his tattoos and muscular frame. He continues the thrashing until the camera tracks around to finally reveal what we knew five minutes earlier.
Aditya Roy Kapoor is angry, and he’s looking very well built. By the end of the 130-minutes (approximately) of this romantic crime drama we know little else about his character, except that he has some long-festering family issues, he’s angry and he’s madly in love with Sara. We also do not know if we should be rooting for him.
But first, a throwback.
Advait (Roy Kapoor) and Sara’s (Disha Patani) meet-cute takes place at a beachside rave under the shower of fireworks. They connect and proceed to indulge in a series of hedonistic activities justifying their actions with the motto — life is all about making choices. On a daily basis, their biggest choice is between fun or peace. They usually pick the first — not much of a choice.
Skydiving, kite-surfing, jumping off cliffs — this is what Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara would look like through Mohit Suri’s lens. One wonders where their endless finances come from. What are they running away from? These questions do not get answered.
Assisted by the music (Ved Sharma’s title track Malang is especially an ear-worm), cinematography (Vikas Sivaraman) and production design (Vintage Bansal, Sidhant Malhotra), Suri captures the energy, frenzy, and headiness of rave culture, the lure of escapism and intoxication. But drugs don’t destroy demons; they just bring out new ones.
In a parallel track, an unkempt police officer with a nose full of illegal substances is taking the law into his hands. Trigger-happy and out of control, Agashe (Anil Kapoor) has a long night ahead. It’s Christmas Eve. There’s been a murder.
Enter upright Michael Rodrigues (Kunal Kemmu), the head of the Special Cell. Agashe and Michael’s methods don’t match, but the body count is increasing and the killer must be stopped.
Kemmu stays at a simmer, raising the acting bar even in scenes with the usually enjoyable Kapoor who is constantly set at boiling point. He seems to just enjoy hamming it up as an unhinged cop.
Aseem Arora’s script puts both these tracks on a collision course. The sight is not pretty, though fortunately, the locations of Goa, Mauritius and the very attractive Disha Patani make up somewhat for bends in the road.
Aditya Roy Kapoor hits his mark as the bearded, muscular, angry young man glowering under a hood. But, as the younger version of Advait, he remains a cardboard character. Not that Suri demands too much ‘performance’ from his leads. Their money scene is like a music video for beachwear.
A whole lot of time is wasted setting up the story; far less is assigned to unraveling the mystery or providing adequate backstory to all the characters. It feels like misdirection to bring you into the world of Malang through Advait and Sara’s superficial, chemically assisted love story but place greater emphasis on the twisted minds of the cops in charge.