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Marjaavaan

Rating: 1

November 15, 2019

Cast: Sidharth Malhotra, Tara Sutaria, Ritesh Deshmukh, Rakul Preet Singh, Nasser

Director: Milap Zaveri

In interviews leading up to the release of Marjaavaan, Milap Zaveri has said it was born out of an angry place inside him. Having watched it I can tell you the anger is contagious. Marjaavaan is a lazy, cynical, cash-grab exercise disguised to look like a movie. It feels like it was made not from a script but from a checklist of Hindi film clichés and tropes from the 80s and 90s. Milap is credited as the writer and director of the film, but there’s little evidence of whatever writing or directing that’s supposedly gone into it.

Sidharth Malhotra stars as Raghu, the trusted right-hand man of a water-mafia don named Anna (Nasser) who took him in when he was abandoned as a child and raised him as his own son. This has led to a lifetime of resentment from Anna’s birth son Vishnu (Ritesh Deshmukh), a three-foot ball of hair and fury. Vishnu, who resembles a shrunken version of Chewbacca, has it in for Raghu; he’s constantly plotting to humiliate him or to eliminate him completely.

All of this unfolds in a basti in Mumbai, a sort of Wasseypur-like badlands where gang wars routinely break out in the street, innocent people are killed in broad daylight, and the police always shows up late. The characters in Milap’s films are ‘types’ and they have all the depth of a potted plant. So Raghu kills people on Anna’s orders but we’re never allowed to forget that he’s basically an empathetic and ‘progressive’ gangster who helps old women and stands for communal harmony. Rakul Preet Singh is Arzoo, your standard hooker with a heart of gold, which means she must stand on the sidelines and watch the man she loves, lose his heart to the ‘virtuous’ girl. Which brings us to Zoya (Tara Sutaria), a mute girl from Kashmir who wanders into Raghu’s orbit; the sort of angelic heroine who exists in a script only as a catalyst to trigger a change in the hero.

I could tell you what happens next, or you could just watch the trailer – they’ve given it away themselves. The second half spirals into a revenge saga with the sort of twists that your six-year-old could easily predict. Watching Marjaavaan, the stench of creative bankruptcy is hard to miss. There’s nothing fresh by way of story or treatment, only one good song stands out in an album crammed with lazy remixes, and throwback tropes like clap-trap dialoguebaazi get very tiring very quickly.

The weight of this mess is too much to carry even for Sidharth Malhotra’s pumped up shoulders. He’s earnest as Raghu, especially in the emotional bits, but action scenes in which he vanquishes ten bad guys at once look unconvincing. Salman Khan he is not.

I came away from Marjaavaan bored and exhausted. It’s literally a film with no perceivable merit, and one that begs two key questions: How did this film get made? And why are we being taken for a ride?

I’m going with one out of five.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

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