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Animal - Carnal, visceral, adrenal, phenomenal

Let's cut to the chase, since everyone already has a bunch of preconceived notions of the movie - about its length (at a bladder bursting 3 hours 22 minutes, the RunPee app was never more in demand), its violence and deserved A rating in India, its "toxic masculinity" and alpha male machismo from the writer-director Sandeep Reddy Vanga of Kabir Singh (2019) infamy. All of it is true and more, but nothing, I repeat nothing, will prepare you for the cinematic experience, story arc and directorial treatment of Animal. I can confidently say that there has never been a Hindi movie ever made of this kind, with a "hero" with so many shades of black, white and grey, a lack of filter in speech mouthing dialogues never uttered in polite society, and the guts to be physically ugly and emotionally vulnerable. Yes there have been father-son conflicts in cinema before, most notably the Amitabh Bachchan - Dilip Kumar starrer Shakti (1982), or Udaan (2010), but they seem milquetoast by comparison. There has been the misogyny of Kabir Singh, but it was in a vacuum with no ostensible reason behind it, and a woman who went along unconditionally. Here the wife fights back and has agency. There has been violence, and of the extreme kind, recently in Rocking Star Yash's K.G.F. : Chapter 2 (2022), Superstar Thalaiva Rajni Sir's Jailer (2023), and Thalapathy Vijay's Leo (2023), but they didn't have the execution, flair and finesse as here.

Ranbir Kapoor (his character's name is revealed only at the interval mark) is the son of ultra rich industrial magnate Balbir Singh (Anil Kapoor). He adores his dad and craves his love and attention since childhood but it is never reciprocated. He is the only male child with the other two siblings being sisters. He grows up scarred and with pent up anger issues, but with a self-confidence bordering on the arrogant. That leads him to marry his childhood love Geetanjali (Rashmika Mandhana) even though she is engaged to someone else. I will not reveal any more of the plot line in order to avoid spoilers, but if you have seen the trailer, you know that Lord Bobby, as Bobby Deol is now known among the millennials and Gen Z and the meme universe, is there in a bloody and physically buff avatar. There are cameos from Shakti Kapoor, Suresh Oberoi, and Prem Chopra, but the best and most hilarious one is by Marathi actor Upendra Limaye as Freddy, the atmanirbhar, Make in India arms dealer.

This movie, however, is a Ranbir show all the way, His performance is a tour de force, a force of nature to behold. He has always had the genes and the aptitude for many brilliant performances from Wake Up Sid (2009), Rockstar (2011), Barfi! (2012), Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013), Tamasha (2015), Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016) to Sanju (2018). There have been many disastrous turkeys along the way as well from Anjaana Anjaani (2010), Besharam (2013), Roy (2015), to Brahmastra (2022). But his acting here is on a different level to anything he has done before as it straddles the gamut of emotions from the alpha to the omega. The level of rage and violence he has tapped into (wait thru the entire extended post credit scene for it to go stratospheric) blows his lover boy image to smithereens. His late father Rishi Kapoor would have been proud.

This movie will be every bit as polarizing as a movie can be. I had hated Kabir Singh, but I loved Animal, especially the first half. The same person can make 2 movies that are either both loved by some, or both hated by some, or one loved and one hated. That's the beauty of cinema, one day it can make you a loving, peaceful dove, the other day a roaring, raging tiger - the animal lies within.

December 1, 2023

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