Director: Mohit Suri
Writer: Aniruddha Guha, Aseem Arora
Producer: Jay Shewakramani, Luv Ranjan, Ankur Garg, Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar
Cast: Aditya Roy Kapur, Disha Patani, Anil Kapoor, Kunal Khemu
Streaming Platform: Netflix
There is something pitiable about a person yelling from the roof-tops, “I am cool. Look at me, and my psychedelic print shirt.” Malang is that.
Advait (Aditya Roy Kapoor) and Sara (Disha Patani) find themselves in Goa; she has forsaken her material possessions (she donates her i-phone and macbook to a street beggar before walking into the airport, looking at the flights, and making a choice of destination), and he his memories (he gives all the framed photos of his parents to the waste-collector). They meet under a shower of fireworks (‘Hasi’ from Suri’s Hamari Adhuri Kahani), and bike across Goa (‘Galliyan’ from Ek Villain) to cement their love, but this time there is psychedelia and overdose. This is not because the writers and director want to make a point about overdose and the ease with which a hedonistic life can slip into agonizing meaninglessness, but because it looks visually articulate, (this is an irresponsible choice) and the leads can chant loose dialogues that sound even more awful than they would have on paper; the delivery of Patani and Kapoor is embarrassingly juvenile, as is the writing. (Mukesh Chhandra is credited with ‘Acting Workshop’)
Something goes very wrong, and Advait is now in prison. The first shot is his introduction in a prison fight, and they have taken a page from War, shooting it in almost an entire take, but only showing his bronzed back. But here, the intent of the fight isn’t established so it just plays out as an ode to Kapoor’s shredded physique. Fair enough.
You get a sense that he has been wronged, and his release from prison is immediately followed by a spate of revenge killings. The police officers investigate; a coked up Agashe (Anil Kapoor) and Michael (Kunal Khemu) whose primness cloaks something sinister. (The sinister reason is so drawn out, and barely convincing, but by this time you are not looking for logic but a redeeming thread.)
When Agashe is introduced, he is conversing with this fellow, Tony. Yet, even when Tony is speaking, the camera can’t take its gaze away from Kapoor, his nose itching with powder, and his face agitated and vibrating. There is some performance here, but it fits seamlessly into this Mohit Suri universe. (A universe with enduring melodies strung to hefty Urdu lyrics that compensate for the banal dialogues and lacking intensity)
So the film plays out as a flashback to establish Advait’s motive, while also sketching out the police officers’ background; both the flashback and present day ending at the Christmas parade under the CGI fireworks. There is a bit of a twist at the end, but for anyone who has watched the trailer, you can see this ‘twist’ from a mile, an advisory warning to not make the trailer of a film so expository (and long).
Malang means vagrant. (It’s a word that beautifully trips down your tongue.) This means you can expect a lot of conversations about and references to “home” and ghar jaana, because our cinema’s capacity to tackle wanderlust is limited to a teenager’s instagram caption, bubbling with Neruda quotes. It’s like Too Hot To Handle where you know the moment these people describe themselves as compulsive swipers and one-night-stand rockstars that they are all going to fall in love-ish. Wanderlust isn’t a problem to be solved, and neither is it a permanent condition. For a film that betrays its own title, with the lead characters eventually preferring anchors to the restless seas, what more could be said?