Starring Siddharth Malhotra, Riteish Deshmukh, Tara Sutaria, Rakul Preet Singh
Written & Directed by Milap Zaveri
All right then, Marjaavan is a homage to the masala movies of the 1980s… Deewaar, Amar Akbar Anthony, Lawaaris , Muqaddar Ka Sikindar (Rakul Preet Singh reprises Rekha’s Zohrabai) and one very specific homage to Ramesh Sippy’s Shaan.
This is a film directed by a man who has grown up watching mainstream Hindi cinema. He loves every shriek, every wolf-whistle and every thump of the fist falling on a bare face, the kuckles leaving an imprint across the bloodied cheek. Revenge was never sweatier.
The cheeky ode to the mainstream Hindi potboiler works so long as you don’t try to compare it with the commercial cinema of this millennium. Writer-director Milap Zaveri happily goes back in time to recreate a soooper-hero in a made-to-order soooper-potboiler where blood boils to a simmering tension over and over again, and the Mandir embraces the Masjid in scenes that are written with far more care than the bone-crunching pandemonium outwardly suggests.
The idea of an Angry Young Man, here played by the grimacing Siddharth Malhotra who bears a passing resemblance to Amitabh Bachchan, being in love with a ‘pure’ reformative woman goes back to Raj Kapoor’s Sri 420 where Nargis played the lilywhite school teacher, and closer in time, to the Bachchan heroines in Deewaar, Shakti and Kala Patthar where the grimy bloodied hero falls in love with a lady who always seems to have come out of a bath smelling of sandwalwood soap.
Tara Sutaria not only comes out of the metaphorical bath, she also makes sure that she is constantly in full makeup, nails painted to a chic slenderness mocking the anxieties of a world around her that’s falling apart.
It takes a 3-foot villain of unmitigated vileness to set the papier-mache Lanka on fire with his taunting jeering dialogues. As the midget villain Riteish Deshmukh is a hoot. He speaks his lines borrowed from Hindi film lyrics and other sundry dubious sources, as though he owns them. Villainy can’t get any more delusional.
And when Deshmukh’s 3-foot trouble-maker pushes his ganglord father (Nasser, wasted in more ways than one) down a skyscraper Deshmukh curses himself for his lack of scruples. It is a classic performance in a film that pleads with us to take its bleeding tearful flow of melodrama seriously.
All we can do is, smile indulgently at the director’s sincere belief in the power of 1980s potboiler to reinvent itself in present times without any radical changes in its DNA. Even the songs are all re-mixes.
I have to admit I was quite impressed by Milap Zaveri’s determination to not treat the outdated material as fodder for spoof. Milap is so anxious to be taken seriously that it breaks your heart to not oblige. The fights and the drama are admissibly kitschy. Manmohan Desai, Raj Kumar Kohli, Ramesh Sippy and Prakash Mehra are some of the 1980s’ favourite directors whose sway over the audiences’ minds and hearts is duly acknowledged.
The performances are largely over-the-top. While Siddharth Malhotra tries hard to play the distraught destroyer, Riteish Deshmukh is the scene-stealer. The two heroines vie to out-paint each other. Heavily made-up, they are not convincing as decorative dolls. Even dolls are more expressive. Watch out for Shaad Randhawa doing a tribute to the late Mazhar Khan’s legless act from Shaan.
But the best line in this furiously derivative tribute to an era gone-by goes to Ravi Kissan. Playing an upright cop he tells the hero to go ahead with his plans of killing the villain.
“The police will live up to its reputation in Hindi cinema of arriving late,” Kissan deadpans.
If only the rest of the film also displayed a similar self-directed humour instead of constantly taking itself seriously, Marjaavan would be more than just a hyper-strung wickedly kinetic homage to an era when Bachchan was king and cinema was his playground.