It’s the return of the Neanderthals and rugged masculinity in director Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s ‘Animal’, led by a brilliant Ranbir Kapoor who revels in playing an entitled caveman in this shockingly violent and provocative film.
If you thought Vanga’s ‘Kabir Singh’ was an embodiment of all things toxic and misogynistic, then ‘Animal’ makes Shahid Kapoor’s character look like a tame, toothless puppy. Be warned, you need an iron stomach to digest the violent scenes and an iron will to tolerate the alpha male hero with a stoic savior complex.
Kapoor, whose troubled childhood defines his adulthood and harbors undiagnosed daddy issues, comes completely undone in this diabolical role as the mercurial son of a wealthy but emotionally unavailable workaholic magnate (Anil Kapoor). His character craves his violent and strict father’s approval and attention, but he doesn’t get it and overcompensates by going to insane lengths to win his papa’s unconditional love.
The bloody carnage at every corner mixed with dialogues that are truly derogatory towards women around the world makes you sit up and wonder if ‘Animal’ is Vanga’s retribution for all the hate he received for ‘Kabir Singh’. It’s almost like he’s daring us to make peace with a bloodier and more sexist piece of work (calling it art is stretching it). It’s an unapologetic display of benevolent sexism where a hero holds the belief that he should protect/cherish the women in his life. While he’s at it, he also throws in barbs on how they should conduct their lives. From suggesting what beverage his younger sister should drink to why she should marry a man vetted by him, Kapoor’s character – identified in the first half as billionaire Balbir Singh’s son – is truly puerile and heroic in parts.
What works for this movie is how Ranbir Kapoor, who has played troubled lover roles in the past, surrenders to his bullish and brutish character. He delivers the crudest lines, written to shock and mortify, with such conviction that you are keenly aware of how good an actor Kapoor is. He shines in a role that’s meant solely to traumatize its viewers. And did we tell you, in the first ten minutes, we are given a crash course on how alpha males like him are the real deal. And his way of wooing women? “You have a big pelvis, and it means you can have my healthy babies”. If this is your brand of entertainment and these violent imagery rocks your boat, then you are likely to walk out of this film less scarred.
The action scenes are also well-executed.
In one scene, Kapoor as this prodigal son Ranvijay Balbir Singh, is seen walking with an axe on one hand and a severed hand of his antagonist, all soaked in blood. It’s meant to be disgusting, and it is disgusting, but Vanga knows a thing or two about how to make it titillate. The violence in this film is equally gory as guts and eyes get plundered with sharp objects. While you can close your eyes when the carnage gets too bloody, there’s no way to unhear some of the sexist dialogues that are passed off as romantic overtures.
Like all Vanga’s movies, women in his movies have very little agency. Rashmika Mandanna, who plays his frustrated wife pandering to her husband’s obnoxious demands and masochist tendencies, does justice as Gitanjali. Her husband is needlessly aggressive, but she takes it with a sagacious smile or a tight slap. Everything is extremes in Vanga’s puerile paradise teeming with men-will-be-men ideologies.
Sample this: there’s a scene where Kapoor does something terrible in their marriage but instead of apologizing for his transgressions, he wants a promise that if he dies, she will never marry again. There’s also a scene where Kapoor, down on his luck and health, gives a pep-talk to his cousins that a man should always maintain control in a marriage, or their wives can go rogue. Ranvijay Singh Balbir, the scion of the Swastik Steel empire, clearly missed the memo on it being the 21st century.
While the first half is engaging and moves at a rapid pace, the second half descends into a chaotic world where violence is the mainstay, and men are walking around hacking their adversaries to death. The spraying of bullets, dismembering body parts, and explosions can get tedious, but Kapoor and Bobby Deol – who is introduced into the film in the second half -- seem to be having genuine fun in acting like blood-thirsty savages.
Anil Kapoor plays his part of a mean dad to perfection. But the backstory on the emotional damage that he wreaked on his son isn’t very convincing. Tripti Dimri in a significant role also makes her presence felt.
The key to finding ‘Animal’ appealing depends wholly on your appreciation of all things grotesque. And remember, there’s always a thin line between revulsion and attraction, and director Vanga – who is notorious for his skewed and problematic take on romance – queasily exploits it by hiring a great cast who are willing to surrender to his vision. Kapoor and his mates do a fabulous job of it, the only problem? The director expects the viewers to surrender to him fetishizing grisly men as noble souls.
Director: Sandeep Reddy Vanga
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Bobby Deol, Anil Kapoor, Rashmika Mandanna, Tripti Dimri
UAE Rating: 18+ for viewers
Stars: 3 out of 5