Well, it was pretty clear that Sandeep Reddy Vanga was going be doubling down on his commitment to show the critics ‘what a violent film will be’ as he stated his an interview with Film Companion’s Anupama Chopra post the release of his previous venture Kabir Singh in 2019.
The filmmaker’s daring attitude channeled in making ‘Animal’ has finally come to fruition with the movie running in theatres with a runtime of 3 hours and 21 minutes and an ‘A’ certificate. However, judging by the extreme amount of violence like Vanga had promised and yes, toxicity which is probably 100 times more than what we saw in Arjun Reddy and Kabir Singh. So, yes before we dive in, this review will start with a major trigger warning if you get easily uncomfortable with the sight of blood and of course, toxicity. Because, in Animal, it’s way too much.
The film is centered around the troubling and toxic relationship between Ranvijay (played by Ranbir Kapoor) and his father Balbir Singh (played by Anil Kapoor). When Balbir falls prey to an unsuccessful assassination attempt, Ranvijay’s obsession for revenge, fuelled by the want of affection and validation from his father, leads him into a downward spiral psychologically as he transforms into a bloodthirsty gangster who could care less about morality, which is clearly very much absent in this world of Animal.
Currently having a stupendous performance in the box office since the past one week of its release and with the dust settling about the controversy of it, let us dive in a little deeper into what is working for the film and the negatives of it as well. So quite evidently, Animal has possibly become the most polarising Bollywood film of this year with the audience divided into 2 factions. Now let us look into what each faction represents.
The Favourable Faction
Starting with the favorable faction, Animal is being said to stray away from the conventional style of filmmaking in Bollywood. Vanga mixes the troubled relationship between a narcissistic son who is hungry for approval and an absent father with an excessive amount of violence and problematic traits of the characters.
The reason why the favorable audience is being lenient on the film could be based on the argument of how befitting the title of the movie is. Including Ranvijay, all the characters of this film live in a world that isn’t driven by any sort of morality. It is a jungle that runs solely on the rule of survival and only the strong survive out here. Ranvijay is free from the burden of what is right or wrong. His actions in the film are solely based on instinct, just like an animal, who would cross to any lengths to protect his family.
The Unfavourable Faction
As we expected, Vanga has certainly ruffled the feathers of all the feminists and critics who bashed him for the representation of toxic masculinity in Kabir Singh. If you were critical of Kabir Singh, you should probably stay away from Animal. In the first half, you could possibly be forgiving of a comment Ranvijay makes for his love interest, Geetanjali (played by Rashmika Mandanna) because it can be touted as a moment to establish his character.
I mean, it is a Sandeep Reddy Vanga film and the man can’t do without one or two toxic traits for his protagonist. The film is undoubtedly engaging with its non-linear screenplay in the first half till an exceptionally crafted interval block. And from here, you witness a huge dip in its writing. The second half is basically the showcasing of Ranvijay’s downward spiral in terms of mental state where reaches a point of physically harassing his wife by pulling her bra strap, which is clearly uncomfortable for her. However, the number of problematic moments and conversations does not serve any purpose to the film’s narrative. It seems that Vanga is just fulfilling his personal vendetta against the naysayers and seemed to have forgotten about the father-son core of the story.
We also have the solid and a rather uncomfortable introduction of the film’s antagonist Abrar, who is played by an extremely vile and ruthless Bobby Deol. However, it is one of the most nauseating factors about the film that you do not give the main antagonist enough screen time. His character’s backstory is just served by a simple narration of events by Ranvijay’s grandfather (played by Suresh Oberoi) who tells that he is a part of their family and this is all a family feud.
This could have been found out by the grandson right when the second half began. And now, we get to the most underwhelming part of the film- the integration of Tripti Dimri’s character. She basically a mole sent to Ranvija’s family and Ranvijay begins an affair with her. What could bum you off is that Ranvijay was already aware of her true identity and the affair was just a ploy to divulge her secrets. The revelation just makes her character way too insignificant for the storyline and forced, which is a terrible waste for an actress of Tripti Dimri’s caliber.
Among all of this, Ranvijay was simultaneously established as a person who stands for his sisters and is extremely loyal to his wife, only to throw all that away with the affair angle. On top of that, he gives the most silly excuse to Geetanjali about all of this saving his father. It is so illogical that it will make you facepalm. And while of this is going on, that very father-son relationship seems to disappear from the storyline, only to come in the concluding moments of the film.
The post-credit scene can be appreciated for the shock value (again, because of the ‘violence’ factor) and for the extremely transformative avatar of Ranbir Kapoor. However, the family feud is rarely explored in the movie for you to wait for Animal Park.
What Actually Works in the Film
The music of Animal is probably one of the most versatile albums to come out this year. Each song represents a different stage of life Ranvijay is in and that is indicative when you notice how the album isn’t restricted to one specific genre.
‘Arjan Vailly’, being the crowd favorite due to its placement in the film, is being praised for taking inspiration from the legendary life of Arjan Singh Nalwa who was the offspring of Sikh military leader Hari Singh Nalwa and how the composition is deeply rooted in Sikh history, intricately blending with the film’s storyline. However, the placement of the B Praak number ‘Saari Duniya Jala Denge’ is rather odd and unintentionally funny when you see the situation where it is played.
The violence is unapologetic and brutal throughout the movie that really ups the ante of its representation in Bollywood, especially in the second half. If you have a taste for violent films from Hollywood, you might be able to sit through the film. If not, good luck! And it is not just the violence that gets on your skin, something we will talk about regarding the second faction of the audience.
As mentioned briefly, all the actors have hit it out of the park in this film. Ranbir Kapoor is rightfully touted to be the best of his generation and this film just cements it. Anil Kapoor’s recent ventures have been going under the radar and if the same continues after this film, then it is a crime. Bobby Deol seems to be having solid second innings in his career where we are getting to see such a different side to him. I just wish he had more screen time.
In conclusion, the film eventually turns about to be a mixed bag due to Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s grudge against the critics who, according to him, unnecessarily dive deep into what is a true representation of toxic masculinity.
We all have seen extremely problematic characters on screen that do not seem to have a sense of morality distracting them from their self-destructive journey. But not making them pay for their actions when the film is over certainly does not make you end up in the good books of people. The rage and toxicity that brims from a disturbed father-son relationship in families could have been such an interesting factor to explore upon in Animal. But sadly, Vanga just took things very personally.
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