"Take movies, music, poetry out of life & its gone!"

ANIMAL - A strikingly brutal Ranbir Kapoor show, hampered by the curse of second half. (Movie Notes by Bobby Sing)

04 Dec, 2023 | Just In / Movie Reviews / 2023 Releases

A film receiving a huge response before release with its 3-minute trailer becomes a tricky bet for the makers as it can go either way carrying the burden of big expectations. Plus, if it is an unusually 203-minute-long film with an “A” certificate, then it becomes even more dicey for the box office, limiting its daily number of shows and ticket buyers.

Interestingly ANIMAL comes as a ruthless surprise, offering a lot to love and hate, ranging from a never before kind of violent action to impactful blood-pumping sequences along with bizarre story developments defying all the logic and ethics demeaning the women in its script.

In other words, the film delivers whatever you wish to see in it taking a clue from its well-received trailer. The ones expecting some ‘mind-numbing’ violence and blood, get to see it in abundance presented in a grand style led by the superbly intense Ranbir Kapoor. The family clashes are right there with an emotional undercurrent and exciting action sequences provide enough ‘adrenaline rush’ much more than the recent PATHAAN, JAWAAN, TIGER 3, and even GADAR 2. The upbeat Punjabi song promoted in the trailers is used brilliantly (in its full length) along the major action scene before the intermission. And the look and feel of the project successfully reaches out to the youth (including girls), without caring about the loss of family audience because of an ‘A’ certificate.
For the viewers, expecting toxic male-dominating scenes, they get more than the director’s last KABIR SINGH and hence there is enough to run down the film on that specific ground. If truth be told then traces of this toxic masculinity can often be seen in our films of different genres, but they are surprisingly given a pass by the same set of critics, strongly pinpointing only towards such star-studded biggies. Besides, there is no denying the fact that every single Indian family all over the country and abroad, unconditionally suffers from this ugly male dominance, whether one wishes to accept the truth or not for his/her reasons. For instance, it will be interesting to know how many of the people hating the film for this toxic masculinity have given or are ready to give their married sisters a share of their father's ancestral property without any hesitation or family quarrel.
In a way, this male dominance can also be considered as showcasing a mirror to society. But then, we are known to keep such mirrors in our homes covered with a cloth.
That said, I also have issues with the depiction of women in the film, denying their deserving importance in an intense family drama. But those issues are more related to the film’s poor writing (including ridiculous lines commenting over poets and a woman’s body) and weird story developments apart from the forced toxic masculinity.
Coming to what I felt while watching ANIMAL, the film did not let me look at anything else than the screen till the intermission with the only exception of one forceful conversation referring to the ‘Alpha male’ and the unclear dialogue delivery of Rashmika. The specific discussion between the couple was neither required nor makes any major impact on the film’s routine story progression. Plus, this ‘Dominating Angry Alpha Male’ quoted in the dialogues, appeared to me as the new age extension of the 70’s ‘Angry Young Man’ perfectly fitting in the current angry, hateful, and toxic times prevalent in the country.
While the initial childhood sequences take some time, the progression soon finds its grip, and the first explosion comes in the form of a college scene and Ranbir’s fiery response to his sister’s ragging. Sandeep Vanga Reddy, the writer-director steps onto his accelerator after that and then delivers what he promised as “never before kind of violence” in the next hour scoring with his interval block. The reference to Punjab and the well-built Punjabi men makes a rock-solid impact and the rest is done by the uplifting Punjabi song based on a valiant historical character smartly played along with the most awaited action sequence of the film involving hundreds of attackers. No doubt, more than two hundred men coming into a hotel without any security concerns is a big exaggeration from the director inviting criticism. But the majestic execution of this specific sequence, well supported by an exceptional camerawork and background score did not allow me to find the faults for the sake of complaining. At the same time, I wished the makers had not revealed that giant gun in the trailer, keeping the surprise intact. 
In cinematic terms, I found three things making a big impact during this sequence along with the well-directed action. One - the theme music being played at the back with an exciting and innovative musical arrangement. Two – the Marathi arms dealer speaking in his regional lingo. And three the upbeat Marathi track merging into pulsating modern beats in the BGM just at the right moment with the right visuals leading to the interval block.
The brutal violence depicted in ANIMAL might be new for the Hindi film audience. But it is nothing new for the viewers of World Cinema and even South movies. The Indian cinema got a glimpse of it in the films by Ram Gopal Varma in the 90s and for records, he was also criticized in those times for unnecessarily glorifying crime and violence by the eminent critics. I am sure if his SHIVA was released today, it would have faced severe criticism for his bold violence and bloodshed in the college premises. The knowledgeable cinema experts might have called for a ban on it for promoting violence and poisonous politics in college campus. 
Interestingly, a few years before RGV, director Anil Sharma came up with his violent presentation in HUKUMAT (1987) receiving similar criticism. And 1980s was a decade selling violence, sex, and double-meaning dialogues, like never before. 
It is said, that trends change in circles. Probably the trend of action-oriented cinema is back in this third decade of the new millennium with films such as GADAR 2, PATHAAN, JAWAAN, TIGER 3 and ANIMAL. Besides, I wonder what were many experts expecting from the film widely promoted as a loaded action thriller, rightly given an ADULTS ONLY certificate by the censors. The announcement was quite clear that it is going to be a wild film like never before and the same it is without only holding back.
A section condemning the film for its extreme violence, also made me recall the days I started watching the world cinema and how I was so terrified and shocked witnessing unbelievable violence in many foreign language films widely considered as CLASSICS.
For clarity, ANIMAL shows much less bloodshed and brutality in comparison to those world cinema classics. For young moviegoers, a similar axe/hammer corridor slaughter scene in ANIMAL was first witnessed in the Korean film OLDBOY which came two decades back around 2003. 
The section hating ANIMAL throws in an argument that we should not celebrate violence. 
We certainly SHOULD NOT, as violence is never the solution but always has to be the last resort, the extreme measure when everything else fails and falls apart, leaving no other direction, as prominently shown in all the revenge dramas in the past in Hindi cinema. 
Plus, forget GODFATHER, the conception of ANIMAL largely seems to be inspired from Punjabi cinema and its video-songs structure where a win over the family and personal rivals is celebrated and loudly expressed, firing gun shots in the air. The same is also witnessed in Haryanvi culture and songs. Just like the film, Punjabi & Hariyanvi videos also face a continuous criticism for their violent depiction and gun-show signifying victory.
YES, we should never celebrate violence. But then what exactly is celebrating violence? 
A son taking revenge for his family’s murder or humiliation has been there in our stories since the 1970s. And we have always celebrated the hero’s accomplishment of his mission in those films since last half a century. Yes, the intensity of those killings, and their depiction on screen has gone more descriptive and heartless with the changing times painting the screen red. But again, this is all influenced by the world cinema, by the same films, specifically shown in the film schools and institutes guiding the young students. The filmmakers today unfortunately are not the ones who have watched all the Classics of our past Indian Cinema. But they are majorly the ones who have only heard about our past classics but have seen a lot of world cinema and are highly influenced by their making.
For me celebrating violence is not when a son, daughter or a protagonist kills for his personal revenge. For me celebrating violence is when one finds excitement in killing an unknown, stranger on the roads, whom he knows nothing about. When one finds pleasure in killing or raping just because he/she is of a different religion, sect or caste. When one feels proud in the act of honour killing. When the youngsters feel excited teasing and harrasing a foreigner roaming alone. When a mob finds pleasure lynching a person considering it fun, and when specific communities are openly targeted in Riots and Genocides with others watching it as a Tamasha. 
ANIMAL is also being condemned saying that such violence seriously impacts the social structure of our society and the young minds. To this I would say, we have already crossed all the limits of social hatred and violence since last decade or so and the public has been witnessing much more cruel, shocking, negatively provoking, and threatening clips of bloodshed on their mobiles through WhatsApp and social networking forwards. The blood-pumping action in a film, surely has a strong impact on the viewers but that impact is much less in a fictional family violent story in comparison to films strictly focusing on demeaning another religion and its practitioners, intentionally spreading hatred. 
Here I am not justifying violence in the film. But at least in a fictional action film with imaginary characters, people do not get provoked to stand up and raise a slogan against the other, within the theatre itself, scaringly getting a loud response in return. In a fictional action film, at least the viewer does not check out who is sitting on the next seat and what religion he belongs to.
In short, I remained thoroughly engaged watching ANIMAL till the intermission (minus the derogatory talks), reminding me of the good old, male-oriented action cinema of the 80s and 90s when we were not used to such serious decoding and analysis of any film’s content. That is the reason I wrote the following text on social networks during the break predicting the film’s success.
“High BP patients take their medicines along and Low BP patients leave them at home, to watch this thundering explosion on screen like never before in Indian Cinema. 
Sandeep delivers what he promised and even more, certainly not for the faint-hearted.
Unconditionally to be watched in theatres, as you will be doing injustice to yourself watching it on the tiny 5, 15, or 32 inches unethically.”
Sadly, everything changed, shattering all my expectations, once the film started again post-intermission. It soon became “a missed opportunity” for its entire second half because of many glaring flaws in its writing and execution as well. The confidence and finesses witnessed in its first half were nowhere to be seen in the second ending on a weird and disappointing note. 
While the father-son tussle suddenly vanished from the narrative, the most bizarre inclusion in this later part of ANIMAL was of an ultra-quick heart transplant, foolishly included in the script just to bring in another female actor ready to get into the bed with the protagonist, who in the first half takes a vow in front of his wife that he will never betray her ever in his remaining life.
The long avoidable scenes dealing with ‘the new affair’ and ‘the divorce talks’ bring boredom into an otherwise engaging thriller and this entire section deserved to be severely edited keeping the pace alive. These inclusions indicate that a director must rope in a reputed editor even if he can edit the film himself. An editor brings in a fresh perspective which definitely helps resulting in a better final product in the end.

Explaining the same, the moment the writer-director gives you some time to think, one realizes that the film has not given enough reason behind Ranbir’s severe hatred for his father and his unpredictably violent character. Moreover, many of the toxic conversations between the couple also seem to be added just to trigger the audience without any major significance or justification in the character development of the lead. It seems Sandeep had intentionally planned social network debates as a part of his publicity campaign for the project. Besides, as the film progresses, Ranbir’s character keeps contradicting himself as an utterly confused personality with no direction whatsoever.
Moving over to its biggest downer, probably the makers were not expecting a few-second appearance of Bobby Deol in the trailer to become a huge rage before release, adding a new curiosity element to the project. Somehow Bobby became the talk of the town as soon as the teaser was released. Many claimed he was shown as a deadly deaf and mute gangster and others said he was shown as a man-eater, a cannibal. Amongst these vague assumptions, the desire to watch a frightening villain played by Bobby grew to many folds. But the film was not designed that way by the makers and it was too late to make some significant changes.
Cannot say whether it was conceived like this right from the beginning or Bobby’s major scenes got edited out in the end, it is a big disappointment to see Bobby in a small cameo with just a couple of scenes and those too coming after a long time towards the end. This unexpectedly short insertion is like a betrayal for the viewers. At least I felt that way while waiting for Bobby to appear on screen for more than 120 minutes.
Further, ANIMAL continues its weird progression in the climax and it is hilarious to see Ranbir and his team taking a private flight to a foreign country with all their guns and ammunition and simply attacking Bobby’s house right after their landing openly firing as if they have got a license to kill from both the governments and their security agencies. They also fly back, with the ‘murder weapon’ as their proud possession. And POLICE is nowhere to be seen in any scene of the film from start to finish adding to the script's absurdities. This carelessly written, stupid sequence in the end, pulls back the film to a plain ordinary level and you can feel the same looking around with many mobile screens on. 
The final hour forced me to rethink about the film’s merit and appeal it had before the intermission. As a result, the climax fight was simply nothing for me, also because both Bobby, his brother, and their backstories were never disclosed clearly or impressively creating more confusion.
If that was not enough then here Sandeep adds another weird angle of a Clone, cleverly created by the villain to continue the fight, because the makers wished to make a sequel, titled Animal Park. Hope in the sequel Sandeep remembers incorporating a well-connected storyline instead of just adding well-shot action sequences coming at regular intervals.
Regarding the Punjabi songs included in the film, both the key Punjabi tracks are based on traditional forms of Punjabi music including Tappe and a reference to history. The Tappe composition of the climax track, was also adapted in Hindi films music of the 1950s (like in PHAGUN (1958) and later by Jagjit Singh Chitra Singh too in their live concerts. 
Many YouTubers have made videos explaining the story behind “Arjan Velly” assuming it has something to do with the film. The song has nothing to do with either any character or script of the film to be straight. It has just been added as someone (probably from the music company) must have guided Sandeep to add Sikhs in the gangs and a pulsating Punjabi song, eyeing more reach within the country and abroad in various countries. Moreover, the song becomes different if you consider ‘Arjan Velly’ together and ‘Velly’ alone in the lyrics. A Velly song was a common inclusion in Punjabi music albums of the past decades when cutting an album used to be a rage in Punjab and Punjabis abroad. You will find many recent songs by renowned singers too with the title Velly including names such as Diljit Dosanjh.
However, the Punjabi consultants involved with the film did not guide or inform Sandeep well about Sikhs and how they need to be shown on the screen. While the team perfectly worked on the looks of Sikh boys and their attires, they forgot to inform that a cigarette should not be lit in the same room/place with ten Sikhs sitting around. 
But as thoughtful characterization had nothing to do with ANIMAL, nobody cared about that and they continued as they wished showcasing booze, prostitutes, and smoking along with the statuary declaration. Here it can also be said that the makers present the film as some kind of Cigarette advertisement too deserving criticism.
The second half almost ruined the fun I had in the first and thus I wrote my continuing posts on the social network as:
“Violent like never before, while ANIMAL has an explosive first half, it is followed by a less impressive, illogical second with the biggest downer coming in the form of much-hyped villain.
So, it's a lengthy mixed bag which will be more loved by Punjabi belt in particular, but the film is not any KABIR SINGH.”
A Ranbir Kapoor show, from start to finish, ANIMAL doesn’t let you remember any other actor in the film except Bobby Deol. But Bobby is also remembered with disappointment, not because of his act, but because of his minuscule role, betraying the eager fans and audience. So, Rashmika (with all unclear dialogues in the start), Anil Kapoor, Shakti Kapoor, Prem Chopra, Tripti, and the Punjabi Boys are there with a fine supporting cast, but they never get the focus with Ranbir standing tall in almost every frame. Rashmika shines in her tough scenes post interval and Ranbir simply excels in his spirited act, but I still consider his RAJNEETI performance one step ahead of ANIMAL.
Amusingly that isn’t all.
With ANIMAL, Sandeep yet again comes up with an appreciable, melodious soundtrack including soothing love ballads, spirited Punjabi tracks and an emotional theme song. Hope this reminds Hindi filmmakers, how a great soundtrack can add magic into a project, even in an action-oriented violent film. Skilfully using the songs in the brutal fights breaking the set pattern, ANIMAL also turns out to be a unique film with a first.
Let me explain.
The film begins with a monkey story, wherein the monkey makes an obscene gesture towards another character in the storyline and the audience enjoys it with a smile. Sandeep ends his film with the same sequence, but this time the obscene gesture is made pointing towards the audience.
Thus, ANIMAL is perhaps the first film, in which the director mocks and insults his own audience in the end making a weird kind of silly, overconfident statement.
Ironically, I found the audience laughing at that last scene too, without realizing that the joke was actually on them.
Walking out of the theatre, I had another thought recalling Sandeep Vanga Reddy’s statement about violent films.

Can a writer-director simply make a film to answer the trolls?

Cannot say with conviction, but it seems Sandeep has made ANIMAL with that prejudiced mindset, as the film gives minimal emphasis to writing and has its entire attention on the never-before kind of violent presentation and grandeur, keeping the logic aside.
Overall, ANIMAL unarguably deserves to be seen, but only for Ranbir, its first half and Bobby Deol in the second. So, the choice, as always, is all yours.
Rating: 3 / 5 (including an additional 0.5 for its soundtrack and Bobby Deol) 
NOTE: Many believe that "VIOLENCE leads to less footfall in theaters as it keeps away the women and family audience"
I have been hearing and reading such statements since the 1980s, particularly when HUKUMAT was released in the late 80s.

Ironically HUKUMAT was one of the biggest hits of its time depicting loud, hardcore action.

Bobby Sing

Tags : ANIMAL Review by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, New Bollywood Movies Reviews by Bobby Sing
04 Dec 2023 / Comment ( 0 )
Leave A Comment
E-mail (will not be published)
Website (Optional)
Enter shown code