People are calling my film Kabir Singh a violent film, I’ll show you what violence is! These words of Sandeep Reddy Vanga from his infamous interview with Anupama Chopra on Film Companion would be remembered for ages! With that, I finished watching the weekend biggie, the Hindi film Animal that had created such hype before its release. If a little preview of the film in July wasn’t enough(remember it had an August Independence Day release), the first teaser of Animal had simply blown me away! It featured an extremely grey and flawed character who promised to go all out, all in the interests of his father in what seemed to be like a standard revenge drama! But I just wasn’t prepared for its trailer and the hype surrounding post it!
The trailer of the film was probably my favourite trailer of the year in terms of how it was cut. Anyone who knows me would be aware that I don’t usually watch trailers given that they tend to reveal the entire plot of the film inside 3 minutes. But there was an element of mystery surrounding Animal wherein the core lay in the emotiobal father-son bond stemmed out of the latter hoping for validation from his father who seemed to raise him like a black sheep in his own family. The entire equation being the foundation of violence led me to believe that Vanga and his team were upto something special. Even as the various theories began to float in amidst a brilliant Ranbir Kapoor performance in the offing, I found myself extremely hyped entering the theatre to watch Animal. So then does Animal manage to match the massive expectations surrounding it, let’s find out.
Story & Screenplay
Animal follows the story of a revenge saga stemming out of a complex father and son bond wherein the latter would go to any length to protect his father and his family. Does he succeed? The story here is interesting with its premise and with multiple theories being floated around it, I was expecting absolute carnage in terms of the screenplay. But the screenplay standing at a humungous runtime of 3 hours and 21 minutes is a bit of a hit and a miss for me. If I were to further dissect it, it makes for a phenomenal first half with the drama peaking at all the right places followed by just about an average second half that brings the overall product down. A step ahead in dissecting would tell you that the makers could have gone bonkers with the second hour but they decided to play it safe!
The drama opens on a futuristic timeline with the introduction of the now aging protagonist(can we call him that?) celebrating his father’s 100th birthday. Soon through a non-linear approach, you are reintroduced to the protagonist in the period ranging from his adolescence to a full blown gangster. Now given its massive runtime, I was quite interested in how the makers choose to showcase the childhood trauma of the individual. And that was a trick missed out by the writers wherein atleast a good 30 minutes could have been dedicated for the same to establish the motivation of the character that would have had a massive payback in the second hour. So you are witness to stray incidents that showcases the aggressive and ‘criminal’ streak of the protagonist leading up to the assasination attempt of the father. But remember, the events are non-linear which means you see the protagonist committing a murder first before tracing the same event to the revenge plot, featuring those involved. I liked this narration that did keep the mystery alive even though things were as clear as light and day!
There are some interesting character dynamics setup in the first hour featuring many character with the protagonist being at the centre point of the proceedings. And so the events unfold through his gaze. This includes a love angle that seemed toxic and a little out of place given how casually there is sexism introduced with respect to the anatomy of a woman along with the choice of clothes that she opts for. The events are problematic given that there isn’t any justification for the same unlike in Kabir Singh/Arjun Reddy where the protagonist was a doctor(and so describing the woman based on the anatomy could have been forgiven, although that was problematic too). Also, this is a world without cops so no point dwelling on that aspect as the body counts rise!
Barring these minor flaws, the first half is an exhilarating ride that culminates into absolute bonkers with a 40 odd minute interval block that had me gasping for breath. That entire sequence was so well staged along with the makers pushing the bar of violence that much more higher, that resulted in a massive showdown, probably a highlight for the Hindi Film Industry in 2023, and quite possibly a landmark of sorts! Things were positioned brilliantly wherein the writers could have taken the drama to a whole new level in the second hour. Alas, that wasn’t to be!
After such a peak interval block, I was expecting a more psychological angle to the plot which would make the drama even more twisted. And the writers could have easily opted for that, given that the drama was headed in that direction. To give you a perspective, the writers could have introduced a psychological impact on the character of Ranbir Kapoor, such that he is madly obsessed with his father to a point that his alter ego continues to go on a rampage, imagining that his father’s life is still in jeopardy. The writers could also have alternately opted to further explore the dynamics within the family. But instead, the focus was on the love angle that started thinning out after a point, something that did not justify the runtime.
It almost seemed like an after-thought to introduce the characters of Tripti Dimri and particularly Bobby Deol who should have had a mysterious presence in the first half as well(also because the narrative style was non-linear). The safe approach of the writing was staggering given that, with a little more guts, this drama was headed for a cult status. Additionally, I also felt that Vanga was taking a mickey out of the critics who had panned his last film Kabir Singh(notice the last scene). This is all fine(I had loved Kabir Singh the film, technically speaking) and I have no qualms of the filmmaker making a statement(infact I am all for it). But it shouldn’t be at the cost of derailing your own film, something wherein I felt Vanga did get a little carried away with the hoopla. As a result, the whole revenge angle seemed half-baked given that the characters’ motivation wasn’t well established which is again a shame given its massive runtime.
The events leading to the final act that have an element of tension surrounding it but it could have been staged better. This was in lead up to some cliches in the writing which didn’t feel organic at all, rather convenient. Even the final action sequence was underwhelming with the B Praak number wasted given that it was played at the wrong time. The emotional angle was missing even in the final face-off scene between the protagonist and his father. But the post credit scene is bonkers and the amount of gore in it kind of put a smile back on my face. Overall, I won’t completely discard the screenplay that definitely was well written in the first hour but a little more fearlessness in the second hour would have transcended this drama into a cult status. Opportunity missed!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are provocative and in your face, and the lines leave a lasting impact. The music is already a chartbuster and I also loved the positioning of the songs, particularly Arjun Vailly that elevating the interval block to another level. Saari Duniya Jalaa Denge though ought to have bern better placed. The BGM is absolutely fire and represents the different moods of the protagonist brilliantly. The range includes softer symphonies alternating with hard-rock numbers that paint a wonderful picture in the minds of the viewers. The cinematography is incredibly good with several frames standing out and how! If a boyish looking protagonist quietly standing a feet away in a family photo did showcase his relationship with his family, the brutal gore of a blood splattered protagonist walking with his arms outstretched towards the end just hit home. The action sequence at the interval block was brilliantly shot as well. The editing was patchy to begin with, while not being able to control the slight lag in the second hour. The movie could easily have been trimmed by 30 odd minutes and that cross needs to be beared by the editor. Director Sandeep Reddy Vanga delivers on what he had promised on – Violence! He is a filmmaker that doesn’t hold back, be it in violence, nudity or even in scenes of provocative statements. And that is what he scores at, and brilliantly so. One thing that he may want to keep a tab on going forward is to not get carried away with his product while wanting to make a statement, something that at times was also true for Anurag Kashyap in his early films. Having a voice is fine but it shouldn’t be at the cost of impacting your product.
The performances are phenomenal by the ensemble cast even though not all characters are well developed. Shafina Shah, Davy Grewal and Mansi Taxak have their moments to shine. Charu Shankar as Jyoti is well restrained. The veterans Shakti Kapoor, Suresh Oberoi and Prem Chopra make their presence felt. Babloo Prithiveeraj as Asrar is fiery and makes a stunning impact despite a limited screentime. Anshul Chauhan as Roop is first rate. Saloni Batra as Reet is just wonderful to watch and she expresses herself beautifully well while being natural to the core onscreen. Siddhant Karnick as Varun is excellent here and a total joker in the pack. He is mysterious and he essays that aspect of his character really well. Saurabh Sachdeva as Abid is terrific as always.
Tripti Dimri as Zoya looks so pretty and she does a good job but her character seemed a little forced and out of place in the screenplay. Bobby Deol as Abrar looks menacing and does such a brilliant job. But his character needed a lot more meat to have an overbearing impact on the screenplay. Anil Kapoor as Balbir Singh is phenomenal with his measured aggressive trait while balancing it with understated tones. He does make an impact with his performance.
I remember how Rashmika Mandanna was trolled across the board for her performance as made out from the trailer. Here as Gitanjali, she is a revelation, scoring heavily in emotional scenes wherein she stood her own ground. I wonder if an alternate angle could have been added to her character on the lines of Lady Macbeth, but Rashmika was outstanding here.
But this is an out and out Ranbir Kapoor show. He is simply outstanding here and makes a stirling impact even when his character motivations are not the best. This speaks volumes of his performance as an anti-hero in a character that is repelling and not your ideal guy next door. His aggressiveness and barbaric trait is on full display here making this a towering act to savour and cherish!
Animal is a standard revenge drama elevated by brilliant performances and plenty of gore that does account for a solid impact. But in terms of its writing, please remember to manage your expectations. Available in a theatre near you.