Good News: Director Mohit Suri maintains his unshakable reputation as a hit-or-miss peddler of lurid potboilers. Bad News: The same as above.

Take away violence and lust and Mr. Suri may lose ninety per cent of the content of his ‘rozi roti’ (daily flatbread), then scratching his head as to what else there is in life besides these two archetypal forces. In his ‘Malang’ (2020), there was another crime whodunit with surprises lined up later. Guess what -  ‘Ek Villain Returns’ is a rehash of the same theme – the rushed, crammed storyline may have surprises, but any emotional wallop evaporates in the face of hectic narration with no space for real intensity or developed characters.

Two pairs of young romantic partners have their stories told in such a scrambled timeline of flashbacks (“three months ago”, “six months ago”, “nine months ago”) that the confused viewer will have difficulty remembering what happened five minutes ago. Aarvi (Tara Sutaria) and Gautam (Arjun Kapoor) first begin their back-‘n’-forth in a prickly round of wooing by the latter. He’s a spoilt rich kid with a penchant for violence and juvenile scandal, while she aspires to be a popstar (Suri has his private fun by slyly presenting her at first as a Sunny Leone look-alike which she actually is, but Sutaria is a good actor). All hell erupts when a party of youngsters is window-crashed by a marauding intruder who savages all of them. Who is this smiley-mask-wearing murderous psychopath?

And then we have the saucily named Rasika (Disha Patani) and Bhairav (John Abraham). Bhairav is a hunky, muscular, silent bloke who falls for the conniving, sociopathic Rasika. It is a relationship forged in hell, to be consummated on earth and then to be returned to where it came from. Of all these four players, Aarvi seems the only one who has a realistic chance of surviving further into mature adulthood. Patani has the juiciest role of all, and she dutifully skims the surface, but the challenging role exposes her acting limitations.

Some of the movie’s characters would have vastly benefitted from more complex character shading, which would have deepened audience connection. Then, even if a character is on a negative spree, other aspects of their personality create at least a modicum of conflict in the viewer’s mind. No such niceties are on display here.  

 What the film also lacks desperately, is a sense of poise. Suri has been consistently praised for his slickness in stitching scenes together, but that valuable technical ability counts for zilch when you cannot cultivate and harvest genuine emotional depth, and when you consistently choose racy stories that prize helter-skelter plot speeding and hey-look-what-a-surprise twists above all else. Crisp editing and maintaining the momentum of a thriller is a perfectly fine pursuit, but if those alone are the merits, the film will be erased from memory sooner rather than later.

Now, as before, Suri has little interest, and often lacks the ability to let a scene simmer in intensity – he would rather finish it in a hurry and move on to the next scene which is also likely to be half-baked. If his next film is titled “Wham bam thank you ma’am”, that will be an adequate summation of his oeuvre. Back in 2005, he almost hit gold with ‘Kalyug’, but he has struggled to mine those fertile furnaces since.

Even the scenes of lust are completely cowardly – who are they trying to be coy for? Is it the Indian Censor Board which insists on belonging to the era of the Battle of Plassey (1757), or the populace which has surged from 900 million to 1.38 billion in record time?

At the end, the promise of another installment is offered. Unsolicited financial tip for Suri & Limited : Ask viewers to pay in advance for the next film. It will offer a valuable financial hedge for the future, and if the filmmaker is still managing to find work, he must be doing something right, isn’t it?   


2 Stars / 5 (Average)
Director: Mohit Suri
Cast: Disha Patani, Tara Sutaria, Arjun Kapoor, John Abraham
Hindi (with English subtitles), Release 29/7/22


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