This was a movie I was actually waiting for. The trailer promised an edgy, quirky thriller with grey characters, some delicious crime and grime, and unpredictable twists and turns. Moreover, after a spate of films set in the heartland with simple men and women tackling unusual problems, an urban crime caper actually seemed like an interesting proposition. Alas, appearances and trailers can be deceptive. Malang, meaning vagrant or bohemian, is like that Instagram-worthy dish that you anticipate would be delicious but feels rather blah when you taste it.
This Mohit Suri venture starts off with a lot of promise. A cokehead cop Agashe (Anil Kapoor), a beefed up convict Advait (Aditya Roy Kapur), a straight laced policeman, Michael (Kunal Khemu) and a pretty free-spirited girl Sara (Disha Patani in flashback mode) make for an intriguing mix in the heady and hedonistic world of Goa’s drug scene. Plenty of shots of pill-popping, rave parties, drugged out foreigners led by a Hindi-speaking Russian (Elli Avaram) and a funny, Marathi-speaking Nigerian dealer set up the premise. Hare Rama Hare Krishna meets Dum Maaro Dum somewhere in between!
Advait goes on a cop murdering spree on a Christmas night. With the entire Goa police force looking for him amidst the carnival and festivities, Advait hops from one location to another with remarkable ease pausing only to recall the moments he shared with the said girl. Who is he? Why and from whom is he seeking revenge? Who is the good and the bad cop? Where does Disha fit into the scheme of things? Is it just a revenge story or is there something more to it? These questions arouse curiosity as the directly nicely picks up several threads at one go without unraveling much. You do not feel much involved in the goings-on at this point but the fast pace keeps you hooked as you expect the answers to be revealed soon. The build-up in the first half is rather good so you naturally expect something spectacular in the second.
And this is where it all comes undone. As the story moves and the plot unravels, too many things get entangled and it seems we are watching one film too many. Hippy lifestyles, unhappy families, relationship issues, hard-nosed policemen with a back story, drug cartels, more crime and threats get mixed into the already boiling broth. It is then, inexplicably topped off with the message of toxic masculinity and a case for respecting women thrown in for good measure! Eh? What, why, where and how? Somewhere along the line, you sense that the director perhaps wanted to make a deeper statement about crime and cops, the psychology behind deviant behavior, questions regarding the right and wrong path while solving a case and so on. However, it just doesn’t come through. There are no characters you feel for, no standout roles or lines or even moments you take back.
The actors do their job efficiently. Aditya Roy Kapur as the angry young man is pleasant on the eyes, looks great without a shirt and has performed well too. Kunal Khemu is saddled with a rather important role with a twist and he makes the most of it. Disha Patani is stunning and has a great screen presence. It’s only the ever-dependable Anil Kapoor who goes beyond the call of duty and adds some meat to his role. Unfortunately, it is a poorly sketched and under-developed character. The same goes for all of the leading roles – they are just not fleshed out well enough to make you care.
Does all of this mean Malang makes for a bad viewing experience? Not at all. It’s entertaining, pacy and attractive. But does it make for an engaging film? No, not really. It’s that dose that you wish gave you a much better high than what it eventually does.