Mardaani Movie Review by Taran Adarsh

mardaani No one would’ve ever imagined Pradeep Sarkar — director of films such as PARINEETA, LAAGA CHUNARI MEIN DAAG and LAFANGEY PARINDEY — to plunge into the dark world in his new outing. Likewise, no one would’ve ever envisaged Rani Mukerji — having proved her mettle in diverse characters — to portray a tough-talking cop in a violent movie. MARDAANI, which teams Sarkar and Mukerji together after LAAGA CHUNARI MEIN DAAG, goes beyond the glitz, glam and fluffy entertainers synonymous with Bollywood, drawing your attention to the dark and murky world of human trafficking.

Tackling a pertinent topic, Sarkar makes sure he stays faithful to the essence by not deviating to unwanted tracks, till a formulaic climax takes over [more on that later]. The question is, does Sarkar make a point? Or is MARDAANI yet another film that attempts to ‘entertain’ under the garb of realism?

The premise of the film, first! Shivani [Rani Mukerji], Senior Inspector, Crime Branch, Mumbai Police, sets out to confront the mastermind behind the mafia, which makes the mistake of kidnapping a young girl, Pyari [Priyanka Sharma], out of the city. Pyari is close to Shivani and her family and in her obsessive hunt for the girl, she stumbles into the world of decadence and debauchery, cruel desires and exploitation.

What follows is a cat and mouse game between a fearless cop and a young and ruthless mafia kingpin [Tahir Raj Bhasin].

Unlike the female cops portrayed in Bollywood thus far, the cop in MARDAANI is as real as real can be. Sure, the plotline may bear similarities with the Liam Neeson starrer TAKEN [2008], but Sarkar steers clear of replicating the Hollywood movie or for that matter, Nagesh Kukunoor’s LAKSHMI [2014], making sure the story takes an altogether different route as it moves forward. Sarkar doesn’t really venture into a new terrain frankly, since LAAGA CHUNARI MEIN DAAG did narrate the story of a call girl who supports her family financially. However, LAAGA CHUNARI MEIN DAAG did not throw light on the dark side of flesh trade, like this one does.

MARDAANI grabs your attention from the commencement and never relents. Padding the proceedings with several intense episodes, MARDAANI eventually becomes the good versus evil fight as the protagonist makes her way to the baddie behind the baddies. The simmering rage of the protagonist, as the mystery behind the kidnapping deepens, is illustrated convincingly, while the director also incorporates ample emotional baggage that would make you connect with the on-screen characters.

However, you cannot turn a blind eye to the blemishes. Sarkar knows the necessity of keeping the thriller moving in those 113 minutes, but there are times — in the second half specifically — when the film slows a little, before the protagonist zeroes on the kingpin. Moreover, MARDAANI adopts the standard route towards the penultimate stages, when Rani and the baddie come face to face. The culmination, although well executed, could’ve remained realistic, like the rest of the film. In fact, Sarkar manages to keep you hooked for most parts, but why this need to get formulaic in the concluding reels?

Sarkar’s stance to sidetrack the soundtrack is indeed courageous. The conventional entertainment-seeking spectator, so used to the mandatory songs every 15/20 minutes, may whine initially, but let’s face it, the same people also grumble if a song derails the story when the drama intensifies [there’s just one song that appears towards the conclusion thankfully!]. Also, Sarkar steers clear of graphic violence, avoiding excessive blood and gore. The background score [Julius Packiam] is perfect and the composer makes sure he doesn’t go overboard. The DoP [Artur Zurawski] depicts the gritty environ with striking visuals, closing in tight on the protagonist in dramatic moments.

Enacting the part of the tough-talking cop who goes in pursuit of those who run the sex trafficking ring, Rani strikes a true to life, forceful pose and also lends her character the much-needed intensity, strength and dignity. The agony that drives her forward is visible on her face and is one of the prime reasons that makes this story easy to swallow. In a lesser actor’s hands, the written material would not have been so competently delivered.

Tahir Raj Bhasin, who portrays the antagonist, is intimidating. Despite being pitted against a powerhouse performer like Rani, Tahir makes sure he leaves an ineradicable impression, playing a cold blooded criminal but maintaining a cool demeanor wonderfully. Jisshu Sengupta gets limited scope. Priyanka Sharma doesn’t get much to do either. Mona Ambegaonkar is convincing. Anil George is first-rate.

On the whole, MARDAANI is relevant, powerful and inspiring with a top notch performance by Rani Mukerji. Worth a watch!

Rating: 3/5

  1. sputnik 7 years ago

    Mardaani Movie Review by Rajeev Masand

    Rating: 3

    August 22, 2014

    Cast: Rani Mukerji, Tahir Bhasin, Anil George, Jisshu Sengupta, Mona Ambegaonkar

    Director: Pradeep Sarkar

    As movie cops go, Mardaani’s Shivani Shivaji Roy, played by Rani Mukerji, feels closer in spirit to Aamir Khan’s straight-talking Ajay Rathod from Sarfarosh over larger-than-life supermen Chulbul Pandey or Bajirao Singham. This mostly gritty thriller directed by Pradeep Sarkar opens nicely and coasts along smoothly until it threatens to come undone in its final act.

    When we’re introduced to our protagonist, a senior Mumbai Crime Branch officer, she’s on her way to nab an elusive criminal. As the police jeep navigates the streets, Shivani makes a quick call to her niece to remind her to finish her homework. It’s throwaway moments like these that give the film a believable texture, and Sarkar creates a fully authentic flesh-and-blood character in Shivani, who comfortably balances her job with her home like most working Indian women.

    The real plot kicks in when Shivani starts probing into the disappearance of a poor girl from a homeless shelter…an investigation that leads her to uncover an organized sex trafficking racket. Soon she’s involved in a cat-and-mouse chase with a mysterious drugs-and-prostitution kingpin (Tahir Bhasin), but to reach him she must get through a maze of accomplices.

    There is much to admire in Sarkar’s film, from its crisp pacing to the performances of its supporting cast. Anil George (from Miss Lovely) is suitably creepy as the villain’s main man Vakil, but Bhasin is the real find. He’s perfectly cast as the English-speaking, videogame-addicted Breaking Bad fan Karan, who addresses Shivani as “Ma’am” when he speaks to her on the phone. This is not your typical Hindi-movie pimp, and Bhasin plays the part with sly menace.

    The camaraderie and the banter between Shivani and the officers in her team ring true, and her lingo – peppered liberally with cusswords – never feels out of step. The film doesn’t linger too much on her marriage, but in one devastating scene we watch as her husband, a doctor (Bengali actor Jisshu Sengupta) becomes a pawn in her clash with the villain.

    But Sarkar opts for an entirely different tone in the second half, when Mardaani adopts many of the typical clichés of Bollywood films. There is an exploitative, voyeuristic quality to the scenes in which the kidnapped girls are initiated into the flesh trade. And Shivani has emerged into a one-woman crime-fighter by the time we reach the overblown clunky climax. She’s pretty much Lady Singham at this point. Surprisingly, despite these problems, the film is consistently watchable, and keeps you glued to your seat. Much credit for that must go to Rani Mukerji, who is in terrific form. Investing Shivani with both physical strength and emotional courage, she gives us a hero that’s hard not to root for.

    Mardaani is not a perfect film, but it’s better than many of the blockbusters Bollywood churns out regularly. It’s a well-made commercial Hindi film – reasonably short and minus songs – that’s trying to say something. For that I’m going with three out of five. Whatever else, you won’t be bored.


  2. Author
    aryan 7 years ago

    Mardaani Movie Review by Sukanya Verma

    Rani Mukerji plays Liam Neeson!

    aux feminism aside, Mardaani is mostly a middling action thriller, writes Sukanya Verma.

    Jis duniya mein maa-behne rishte nahi gaali hain, uss duniya se maryada ke rishte saare todungi,’ screams an eye-catching tagline of Mardaani’s poster.

    You’d think there’s a point behind this relatable sentiment? But no, five minutes into the film and Rani Mukerji barges into a goon’s house and hurls a no-holds-barred expletive at the concerned.

    Sometime later, she cusses at another in the same vein.

    The words ‘Maa’ and ‘bahen’ feature alternately. I don’t need to elaborate in what context.

    Director Pradeep Sarkar’s latest offering is keen to project itself as a thought-provoking woman-oriented subject sensitive to the escalating rate of human trafficking by centring its entire story around a lady cop.

    What it really is though but a middling action thriller engaging a cat-and-mouse game between a shrewd crime branch officer (who happens to be a woman) and a demented young man running a vast human trafficking business.

    Just imagine a bland version of Liam Neeson’s Taken starring a screwy villain, who conveys a disturbing degree of both calm and quirk fashioned in the mould of another Hollywood script.

    Mardaani travels between Mumbai and Delhi to unravel a kidnapping case assigned to senior inspector Shivani Shivaji Roy (Mukerji), who discovers some potentially whistleblowing information.

    Shivani doesn’t completely fit the standard ‘no-nonsense cop’ description. When her superior reprimands her on the phone for conducting a reckless raid, she jokes, ‘Arre koi boss ki biwi ko shopping karwao.’

    She’s not much for subtlety either — not batting an eyelid before reminding a flower-seller girl she rescued, how her uncle would have sold her off if it weren’t for Lady Singham.

    And like last week’s Rohit Shetty sequel, this too has a scene featuring a evildoer getting thrashed while the cop rattles off a list of Indian penal codes. This time, the background score isn’t as ear splitting but amply indicative of the sequence’s crowd-pleasing tone.

    When the aforementioned girl goes missing, Shivani goes on a wide scale hunt/trail while communicating with the offender (Tahir Bhasin) on the phone.

    The moment where she challenges to catch him within 30 days holds up a genuine opportunity for a fascinating dialogue between good versus evil. But it is wasted for juvenile sledging and clunky dialogues (Gopi Puthran) like, ‘Under-19 team ka baravah khiladi/Kya ada kya jalwe tere Paro?’

    The A-certificate is accounted for unsettling glimpses of life in the flesh trade and liberal use of swearwords by Rani but Mardaani like most so-called realistic films fails to convince it’s not for effect. Case in point: a minor is forced into intercourse by an old foreigner and a close-up of her misery cuts to a lingering shot of a symbolic white lily.

    At its crisp pace (Sanjib Datta) of less than two hours, Mardaani is harmless if not hard-hitting viewing and tries to cram up as many elements — political-criminal nexus, Nigerian drug links, flesh-auction clubs and an Abbas-Mastan-inspired twist till its arrives to its convenient finish.

    Figuring in practically most scenes from start to finish, this is Rani’s show. It’s not her best performance but the actress exudes bullish toughness and refrains from making the same mistakes she committed in No One Killed Jessica.

    Underplaying her gutsy, rough-talking Shivani gives her character a slyness, which is not enough to distract us from her perfectly falling bangs (Rangeela’s Steven Kapoor would approve), salon-ready plaits and curled-up eyelashes but ceases to matter if you view Mardaani like a glamorous not gritty thriller.

    Jisshu Sengupta, who plays Rani’s doctor husband, has two lines (Happy Birthday, Chhodna mat saalon ko) and one important scene where you can barely see his face. Bottom-line, he doesn’t even register. Her on-screen nemesis fares much better.

    The eerie nonchalance of Tahir Bhasin’s voice and the gruesomeness it means to achieve complements his equally loathsome smile. What makes him so real (and hence creepy) is how just-around-the-corner he seems.

    Contrary to what its title suggests, gender is never brought up in Mardaani to make a point. There’s no verbal validation from Rani’s character to assert her strengths or her weakness because she’s of a certain sex.

    If only the script weighed more in intensity of thoughts than stagy heroics and simplistic resolutions, it could do a lot more for women in the film industry if not society in general.


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