Movie Review: ‘Mardaani’ by Neha Ravindran

Movie: Mardaani
Director: Pradeep Sarkar
Cast: Rani Mukherjee, Jisshu Sengupta, Tahit Bhasin, Priyanka Sharma (child actor)
Genre: Thriller

Hindi cinema is overflowing with ‘Hero Cop’ stories, where the villain is single-handedly caught by our hero and by the time the rest of police force reaches the doorstep of villainy, the case is closed and dusted. But what if our bone-breaking and kick-flying cop is a ‘Shero’? Pradeep Sarkar cooks for us a high drama thriller with Rani Mukherjee as Shivani Shivaji Roy a Police Officer with the Mumbai Crime branch. She lives in the city with her husband, who is a doctor, and her niece. She is your typical no- nonsense officer, who does not think twice before kicking someone’s butt. Her peace is disturbed when a street child Pyaari (Priyanka Sharma) whom she cares for, disappears from her shelter home. This assumed case of small-time child trafficking turns into a bigger underground racket as all those involved are killed off before the cops can use them to reach the mastermind behind the operation. A 20-somethingTahir Bhasin plays the role of the kingpin Karan a.k.a Walt who runs this high end racket across the world. What follows is a cat and mouse chase with a predictable end.

The title of the movie did not go down very well with me. Shivani is an ass kicking, no- nonsense officer who will make your heart scream ‘Go Girl power’. Then, why the title ‘Mardaani’? Oh yes, because, if a woman is valiant, strong and fearless, she is labelled ‘manly’ without pausing for a breath. The word ‘Mardaani’ implies masculine, and despite being in the 21st liberated century, we are yet to tackle the gender insensitiveness of language. A rare woman centric film in Bollywood, sadly fails to flee from the clutches of gender inequality.

By avoiding cluttering the movie with too many characters, the director succeeds in keeping us focused on the climax unravelling. Making us forget her past disaster with ‘Aiyya’ Rani Mukherjee delivers a power packed performance and she fits the bill of a Bollywood police officer, crude, perfectly spewing profanities and not playing by the book (Our real-time Police must dream of being a Bollywood cop one day). The movie goes off-keys several times, for instance when the villain has bland telephonic chit chats with our cop or when our ‘I will face it all’ shero, begs and cries in front of the goons (Oh! You see she is a woman, she has to cry, that poor emotional fool).

Tahir Bhasin has made a sincere attempt at playing the evil narcissistic villain, but I wish his character was given more meat to chew. He ends up being just a ‘cute’ bad guy, not villain I wish I could punch.
The movie brings forth a very serious issue of child trafficking which is carried out right under our noses, right this hour. U.N reports show staggering statistics on children who disappear from our country everyday without a trace. Pushed into winding lanes of flesh trade, most of these children never escape out alive. The directors portrayal of what must happen inside this sleazy world, made me squirm in my seat, with a knot in my stomach.

Mardaani’ does not come close to the ranks of other woman centric movies like ‘Kahaani’ or Black, but it does provoke you to open your eyes to the realities of a world where hundreds of women like you and me are imprisoned. If nothing, do watch the movie for the cause it is promoting.
My Verdict: ***
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