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Movie Review: Mardaani, Rani Mukerji plays it straight
Star Cast: Rani Mukerji, Jisshu Sengupta, Tahir Bhasin
Director : Pradeep Sarkar
A famous queen, said to have lived in medieval India, was described as ‘mardaani’. She fought the invaders of her land long and hard, and her valour became part of folklore. Doubtless, the makers of ‘Mardaani’ want to create resonance between this Rani and that Rani. And it has to be said that Mukerji gives as good as she gets in this vehicle created to boost her curve. (Read: Rani Mukerji: I’ve always believed in having a great love story)
As Shivani Shivaji Roy, a Mumbai Crime Branch cop, Rani Mukerji plays it straight. That makes her largely believable, which is crucial to our being able to take the film seriously. Because if the leading lady had been made to preen and pirouette, we would have laughed our heads off. Just the way we did when Rani Mukerji was turned into a cricket-playing ‘sardaar’ in an earlier Yashraj film. That character was a joke. Shivani isn’t. (See Pics: When onscreen cop Rani mets real-life cops)
We come upon her as she is embarking upon a goon-catching expedition, backed by a couple of subordinates, who are respectful of her seniority but also josh like old comrades. Leading from the front, she swoops on her catch with a few deft moves, and we start suspending disbelief.
Soon she gets going on the trail of a gang involved in trafficking and drugs. At the other end of a tangled web, whose unraveling is a tad too pat, is the urbane, English-speaking kingpin (Tahir Bhasin), who calls her ‘ma’am’ with not an ounce of respect. Nice touch. That there are no songs that the characters are made to lip-synch, is nice too.
Till the half-way mark, there isn’t a slack moment. In a walk-on role, Sengupta plays the cop’s spouse with the right degree of support and helplessness. And Mukerji’s Shivani does a good job of maintaining balance between a cop’s life at work and at home.
The kidnapping of the underage girls and their monstrous initiation into the life is shown in an uncomfortably exploitative manner, though, and you cringe at the forced skin show. But Bhasin does menace well, and you manage to keep a check on the unease.
After the interval, the filmmakers throw all restraint to the wind. Shivani is pushed into becoming a one-woman squad, turning into the male version of the movie cop that’s only right for comic-book treatment in bad 80s’ reboots. Cue swelling background music-and- rousing-songs, and we see Rani Mukerji lit up from the back, walking slo mo down a dingy corridor. That’s called curdling credibility.
The display of the ‘trafficked’ girls teeters on the voyeuristic. The resolution, showcasing bloody vigilante-ism, is problematic. Is that the only definition of ‘mardaani’, and is that something to be celebrated? Something more pragmatic, and yes, more real, would have served its consistently watchable leading lady, better.