In hindsight, the makers of ‘Mardaani’ could’ve regurgitated a far worse film and got away with it.
Despite its proudly inept and evil treatment of a subject as deserving of sensitive handling as human trafficking, Mardaani will never attract anything worse than mild, token criticism for some insignificant slip-ups here and there.
It is above criticism because it is a Yash Raj Films movie. Now, the banner doesn’t necessarily protect it from being called stupid or pointless (Dhoom, Neil and Nikki, Dhoom). But, it does give a movie the sort of legitimacy that protects it from being labelled sick or depraved like, say, a Kanti Shah production or similar vulgar cinema of the 90s.
It is above criticism because it calls itself Mardaani and it claims to be about empowerment of women. It has Rani Mukerji in a police uniform speaking Mardaana language, doing Mardaana stuff like raiding red light areas, breaking bones and speaking Mardaana language loaded with innuendo. As a nation starved of strong female leads, we are ready to lap up whatever comes our way in the name of feminist cinema, isn’t it?
It is above criticism also because it is about a <quote> social issue <unquote>. That makes the movie untouchable. Its faults must be forgiven even if it treats the issue in the most inhuman, insane and unappetizing way possible. Pradeep Sarkar is the Kanti Shah of 2014, (who also raised grim social issues, no?) but it is all good, because it is all done for a good cause – that of letting the dumb masses know something as horrifying as this is happening out there somewhere.
Here’s a conversation I had with me while watching the movie. It was a conversation I forced myself to forget because even I was almost convinced that to question Mardaani is simply not the done thing.
TWENTY MINUTES INTO THE FILM:
Holy inappropriate, Batman. This is in bad taste.
This is making me uncomfortable.
Why is the camera lingering on those girls’ uncovered bodies for so long?
That’s several seconds too long.
What’s with the camera angle? Right where her skirt ends, several inches above her knees?
How MANY times will these girls be made to drop their towels before their kidnappers?
Inch by painful, humiliating inch?
Why is that rape scene so detailed?
I know they they have all been abducted and brought to a brothel. You have made that amply clear. I don’t need a depraved, sex-starved, pedophile client’s point of view, Mr Director.
No, I don’t.
Stop it already. This is sick. This is twisted. This is the work of a pervert.
This is Gunda all over again.
This is worse than Gunda.
MIDWAY THROUGH THE MOVIE –
Why am I so uncomfortable?
Why did these questions even arise in my mind?
Am I prudish, backward and incapable of understanding art?
Am I a weak, delicate Janaani and not Mardaani at all, because I’m bothered by the ugly reality?
Does this prove I prefer escapist, candy-floss cinema?
Or am I just a cinema snob who scoffs at the attempt of the humble commercial filmmaker who can’t make a half-decent movie but shouldn’t be reprimanded too much because he can only be that good? *shudders in horror*
(I mean I have enjoyed masala movies. I have watched movies so masala they stopped being movies at some point and turned into Vindaloo curry on big screen. Curry so spicy it gave me dysentery. Dysentry so intense I couldn’t return to Masala movies for a full week and had to stick to boring vegetarian fare that arthouse cinema is. But all that means nothing because of this one mainstream movie that leaves me bothered.)
Curry banned for forever. Dammit.
Anyway, is this sick or am I just stupid?
This is a posh multiplex after all (Okay, almost as posh as a hall on the outskirts of Noida on the outskirts of Delhi can be.) This isn’t a single hall theatre in Ranchi or Patna, the kind where Udaan-type boys go to watch ‘Kanti Shah ke Angoor’.
It’s a YRF production.
YRF gave me clean fun, right? They gave me beer-guzzling-hero-who-turns-sanskaari-at-the-right moment kind, right?
So sanskaari that parents brought their children to an A-rated movie
They are vintage, trustworthy and cannot possibly be vulgar or perverted.
So clearly I’m wrong.
There’s still the climax anyway.
Ooh the climax.
Some smart thinking by Rani. Must remember this and forget everything else.
Wow, that’s a ridiculous fight scene with no continuity at all.
Why are they playing that funny song in the background when Rani is trying to look like she’s beating the crap out of that pedophile?
Anyway, Mardaani Rani has left the sicko among the wronged girls!
Super. Now come revenge and catharsis!
Take your pointy heels off, girls! You don’t need to wear them anymore!
He’s half dead. Kneel down and strangle him! Gouge his eyes out!
Wow. You are doing nothing like that.
So hang on. The director leisurely trains his lens on the girls when they’re weak, barely-clothed and vulnerable, but chickens out and makes them stand and wobble, balancing themselves on those impractical shoes and merely nudging and gently kicking that horrible man?
Why, because too much blood will make audience squeamish? THAT will make them squeamish? Did the director forget his portrayal of underage girls just a little while ago?!
Is it because once all the cheap erotic-sherotic was done, Mr Sarkar was bored and in a rush to wrap a movie he secretly hates?
I feel cheated.
Even Damini was better than this.
Damini was so much better than this.