by Amit Upadhyaya
Ek Villain’s basic plot is taken from the 2011 Korean film I Saw the Devil. Now that it is off my chest and in your knowledge, I can write freely.
To take a moralistic stand on violation of IPR is something that makes me uncomfortable. In the age we live in, all of us have, at certain points, violated someone’s rights. Whether in buying a pirated copy of a book or watching a film downloaded off torrent which young people (who are baying for Mohit Suri’s blood) call #ykw (you know where). I, therefore, find a moral stand on the issue, slightly hypocritical. Crediting the original creator is always desirable. But everyone has his/her own take on the subject and I’d like to leave it there.
Guru (Siddharth Malhotra), an ex-gangster is online with his wife Aisha (Sharaddha Kapoor) when he hears that someone has barged into his house. By the time he reaches home, Aisha has been killed. Guru is now on the lookout for the serial killer who is killing women for unknown reasons. This is how the film begins and Suri, like he always does, weaves a tale of forgiveness around the premise.
Mohit Suri is a unique director in the present day Hindi film landscape. He isn’t someone who is trying to say something new. He does not pretend that for even a second. He doesn’t really want to show-off his craft either. He is out to ‘shamelessly touch the emotional chord’ of the viewers. That kind of filmmaking has somewhat lost its relevance in the last decade. But he persists. His aesthetic sense is extremely inspired by two radically different genres of cinema – Mahesh Bhatt and Korean thrillers.
He knows how to film a song and not hamper the narrative. Instead, aid it. He also knows how to effectively stage action. He chooses to focus on the emotion and not on the gore or ultraviolence (this is where the inspiration from Korean thrillers end). What he hasn’t been able to do is find a script good enough to take advantage of his strengths. The closest he has come to making a decent emotional drama was Awaarapan, another Korean film-inspired work. He has never truly been able to rise above the extremely mediocre scripts he directs.
Ek Villain is probably the worst script that he has directed. Misfortune is that it also had the most potent idea he has ever had. Tushar Hiranandani and Milan Milap Zaveri are the culprits. In fact, Zaveri’s juvenile dialogue will sound terrible in a 1980s Mithun Chakraborty film. To take such a brutally emotional film and massacre it to such a level is sacrilege. I’d rather have a badly translated version of the original than this. He is ably supported by screenwriter Hiranandani. He tries to somewhat deviate from the original and produces the most boring, clichéd backstory ever.
This is not a bad, unwatchable film. Suri produces at least four extremely effective sequences. The first one is a long-drawn action sequence done in a single shot. The others involve the two male leads. If not for the cringeworthy dialogue, these few sequences could truly have been memorable. Maybe, Suri should try his hand at a full-blown musical or a silent film.
Siddharth Malhotra struggles with being the villain. He is too sweet-looking, with not enough emotional heft to carry off the menace, something that Ritesh Deshmukh conveys really well here. It’s when the chase begins that Siddharth comes into his own. Some of that has to do with the referencing to the ‘angry young man’ days of Amitabh Bachchan. The black and white suit is completely in place.
Shraddha Kapoor suffers from the ‘girl next door’ syndrome. Has less to do with her and more with the lazy writing. It’s no mean feat that Deshmukh is able to get the job done despite his character. He gets it just right. Nothing extraordinary but effective.
Mohit Suri will continue to battle plagiarism charges as long as he doesn’t get better writers who know how to steal smartly. It might be better if he could direct original scripts. He is capable of producing better work. Ultimately, of course, it’s a matter of choices.
(Amit Upadhyaya, an Allahabadi turning his nose up at all things Delhi, is a student of journalism at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication. By his own admission, however, he tries to spend most of his waking hours over Bollywood – analyzing, watching, and planning future movies. He is now a trainee journalist at Mint.)