Before Marjaavaan, Milap Zaveri made Satyameva Jayate, a film I described as excruciating. In my review I said it would be better if Milap went back to making terrible sex comedies like Mastizaade. But after watching Marjaavaan, I think, it might be better if Milap went back to making Satyameva Jayate. That film was mind-numbingly loud and the vigilante politics were unhinged but there was some fun to be had watching John Abraham as the killer of corrupt cops trying to outsmart a righteous police officer, played by Manoj Bajpayee, who is then revealed to be his brother.
Marjaavaan can't even manage this momentary distraction. The film is a laughably silly story, written by Milap himself, stretched to an interminable two-and-a-half hours. Milap blends his favourite 80s and 90s Hindi film clichés with ear-splitting background music, bombastic dialogue-baazi and frantic over-acting. Everyone is making faces as if their life depended on it but only Riteish Deshmukh looks like he's having fun.
Riteish plays the vertically challenged Vishnu who has major daddy issues. Vishnu's always snarling. Firstly, because he's only three feet tall and secondly because his father, the dreaded mafia don Anna, likes Raghu more. Raghu is the gutter ka keeda who Anna raised as his own son. In one scene, Vishnu looks at Raghu and says, yeh hero hai aur main zero hoon. Which may or may not be a reference to Zero in which Shah Rukh Khan played a vertically challenged man. It's all very meta. Vishnu appears to have no other life except either insulting Raghu or trying to kill him. At one point, Vishnu tells his henchman, "Tu us pe nazar rakh" but even this simple instruction is accompanied by a growl. Vishnu cracks a lot of height jokes and when he gets out of his SUV, he uses a man as a stepping stool. All of which is supposed to be menacing but it's just unintentionally comical.
Raghu (Sidharth Malhotra) wears bandanas and chews on a match-stick so we know he's cool. When he throws a punch, at least 10 men fly into the air
Vishnu is the bad bad guy. Raghu is the good bad guy. He might kill people for Anna but he has a kind heart. We know this because when an elderly lady is in trouble, he helps. Raghu wears bandanas and chews on a match-stick so we know he's cool. When he throws a punch, at least 10 men fly into the air. Raghu spends his nights with Arzoo, a prostitute with a golden heart. This character is Milap's hat tip to Zohrabai in Muqaddar Ka Sikandar – Arzoo even quotes from the iconic Amitabh Bachchan film.
Just when we were starting to see real change in the portrayal of women on screen, Milap regresses to traditional virgin-whore duality. Raghu might sleep with Arzoo but he loves the chaste Zoya, a mute girl who somehow lands up in this basti and starts recruiting kids for a talent show in Kashmir. Tara Sutaria does the standard shampoo commercial act – she smiles beatifically with her hair blowing back. She is also required to look petrified as Raghu fights. In one sequence, they are attacked by dozens of bad guys. She stands frozen like a mannequin while Raghu stops the various weapons coming her way. It doesn't occur to her to get help or run away. The women in the film have spectacularly low IQs. They are either crying, looking lovingly at Raghu or doing an item number – yes Nora Fatehi pops up when you least need her.
The script is shoddy and at the center of it is Sidharth Malhotra trying to convince us that he can be an old-school hero. You can see his sincerity but he can't summon up the swagger
Marjaavaan is the kind of film in which characters deliver dialogue and then walk away in slow motion. Men spend a few seconds growling and then they attack each other – I've never understood this. Why do you start doing aaaah when you are running toward someone? Basically, it's a testosterone overdrive, which becomes tedious very quickly. The script is shoddy and at the center of it is Sidharth Malhotra trying to convince us that he can be an old-school hero. You can see his sincerity but he can't summon up the swagger. In one scene, Raghu gives a rousing speech with an arrow sticking in his heart. You need a unique conviction to pull off the sheer ludicrousness of this. Siddharth's best work – Kapoor & Sons, Student of the Year – is in a quieter, more contemporary tone. His affable presence can't carry off masala mode.
The one good thing about Marjaavaan is the Jubin Nautiyal ballad 'Tum hi Aana'. The rest is bluster and boredom.