If the movies have taught us anything, it’s this: Whenever a blood-spattered gangster falls in love, he will get in touch with his inner twelve-year-old girl. Thus, in Mohit Suri’s Ek Villain, Guru (Siddharth Malhotra) transforms from a thug who douses a man in kerosene and shoves him into a fire to a chweetie-pie who plays blind man’s buff with Aisha (Shraddha Kapoor) and helps her catch butterflies. I’m not being metaphorical here. They’re near a waterfall, and find themselves surrounded by butterflies. It’s meant to be poetic, I guess. And now she can cross off the item on her wish-list that says: “To play with butterflies.” This wish-list is in her scrapbook, which also has this to-do item: “To unite two lovers.” And so they barge into a mental asylum, free an elderly man who’s watching Shahenshah, and get him married to an elderly woman – in a church. That’s when Guru knows he’s falling for Aisha. Twisting a knife into an enemy is all very well, but at the end of it you don’t get cake.
At the other end of the relationship spectrum, we have Rakesh (Ritesh Deshmukh) and Sulochana (Aamna Sharif). She nags him constantly, and he lashes out by dropping in on women who are alone and thrusting something long and red and hard into them. I refer, of course, to the screwdriver he always carries with him. His best buddy (Kamaal R Khan) is even more of a charmer. When his wife brings him a drink, he slaps her because she hasn’t brought any ice. He says they’re middle-class people, sandwiched between the upper and lower classes, and you need to de-stress somehow. This is how he does it, by reducing his wife to a punching bag. She takes it silently, but there are others whose sole function is to spout something that’s supposedly emasculating, and then pay for this “sin” by winding up at the wrong end of that screwdriver. You’d have to look hard for a film that treated its women with more contempt.
It’s probably no surprise that Ek Villain is so bad. It was bound to happen. The law of averages had to catch up with Suri, who, if nothing else, is a good craftsman, a solid storyteller. So a single dud after a series of respectable dramas isn’t the end of the world. The surprise is that Suri found this material interesting in the first place. The story, I hear, is filched from the South Korean thriller I Saw the Devil, but there’s nothing startlingly original about it – at least, nothing that you have to import from South Korea. It’s the standard you-killed-someone-close-to-me-and-now-I’m-going-to-make-your-life-hell crap – imagine Ghayal with Sunny Deol as a gangster and Amrish Puri as a serial killer. Knowing Suri, there are a few nice lines (“Shaitaan se dosti karega to ek na ek din tere darwaze par dastak dega hi!”) and some deft Indianisation (a mother’s curse comes true), but not nearly enough to make us sit up and care.
The writing is so wretched that nothing, really, makes us care – certainly not the characters (or the actors playing them). Sulochana is a fashion-plate who hardly looks like she’s suffering. Aisha is annoying to the extreme, one of those perpetually sunny types who can whip out, at will, something that, say, Martin Luther King said. She keeps cracking these weird jokes, and I think I lost my patience when, while driving, she turned to the Ganesha statue strapped to the seat next to her and made a wisecrack. (Suri fills his frames with Ganesha imagery. This is not the kind of film where you want to dig deep and find out why.) Aisha is not someone you want to hang out with for two hours. I was intrigued by a couple of things. One, Aisha drives motorbikes and Jeeps – the image of the frail-looking Shraddha Kapoor in (or on) all this macho metal is something that might interest a fetishist photographer. Two, she’s ailing from some disease, and the film just won’t tell us what it is. We keep hearing she has a “beemari” – why this coyness?
In Hasee Toh Phasee, I felt that Malhotra’s character suffered from his “inability to do much more than project a charming geniality on screen. (Would you buy him as an IPS officer?).” I felt the same here. Not for a moment did I buy him as a gangster. His worst scene has him running on the platform and speaking to Aisha as she leaves on a train. He tries to tell her the kind of joke that she usually tells him. She begins to cry. It’s out of emotion and all that, but it’s nice to imagine that she’s finally learning what it’s like to be at the receiving end of those jokes. Deshmukh fares slightly better, but his unvarying hangdog expression only compounds our impatience with a character who’s already such a bore. We never feel that creepy thing we feel in our stomachs when we’re watching a good serial-killer movie. This may also be the result of all the unintentional comedy. Shaad Randhawa plays a cop who’s out to thwart Guru’s attempts at getting to Rakesh, but eventually, even he grows tired of pretending he cares about what’s going on. “Go kill him,” he tells Guru, with an eye on the cold beer waiting for him at home after pack-up. And Remo Fernandes is hilarious as a Goan don of the seas. He has a ponytail, naturally. I don’t think you can be a crime boss in Goa if you don’t have a ponytail. He vanishes for a long stretch and pops up like a genie towards the end, killing someone and hastening the arrival of the final scenes. His eye was probably on the beer too.
* Ek Villain= A villain
* Shahenshah = see here
* Kamaal R Khan = see here
* I Saw the Devil = see here
* Ghayal = see here
* “Shaitaan se dosti karega to ek na ek din tere darwaze par dastak dega hi!” = If you make friends with the devil, he will knock on your door one day.
* beemari = illness
* Hasee Toh Phasee = see here
* unintentional comedy = see here
* Remo Fernandes = see here
Copyright ©2014 Baradwaj Rangan. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.