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Marjavaan, Review: Monica, harmonica, loyalty, penalty, cute, mute, swords, words

Umpteenth reworking of the Godfather theme, albeit with a couple of new angles, Marjaavaan is definitely not a film to die for. Old songs are recycled, the religious divide is milked, fights are conceived as moves of dance choruses and a violently doomed love story is thrown in to add to the misery of the lead couple. See it only if you like to feast yourself on blood and gore, tragedy and heartbreak.

Translated as I Will Die (a more idiomatic translation would be “You are worth dying for”) Raghu (Sidharth Malhotra) is a goon loyal to the Mumbai mafioso Narayan Anna (Nassar) who controls the water supply mafia and prostitution racket. His father’s dependence on Raghu hurts Vishnu (Riteish Deshmukh), Narayan’s dwarf son, who, besides nursing a massive inferiority complex, feels that Raghu has usurped his rightful place. When Raghu falls for Zoya (Tara Sutaria), a musically talented mute Kashmiri girl, Vishnu gets an opportunity to discredit Raghu.

Zoya discovers a talented young girl, who lives in the Anna brothel, for her music competition, to be held in Kashmir, Vishnu opposes this, and warns Raghu that the girl cannot change her destiny and will eventually grow up to become a prostitute. When one of Vishnu’s goons tries to take the girl away from Raghu, Raghu thrashes the goon, and when Vishnu takes out his gun to shoot Raghu, his friend Mazhar (Shaad Randhawa) kicks Vishnu to disarm him, which enrages him no end.  He later kidnaps Gaitonde (Uday Nene), one of his father’s arch enemies, and tells the girl, whom Zoya had selected for the music festival, to shoot him. Zoya sees all this, watching secretly, but Vishnu gets to know of the presence of Zoya, and sets his henchmen to bump her off.

She runs away. She also sends a text message to Raghu, who rescues her. Vishnu kills Gaitonde and his family, and his men catch up with Raghu and Zoya. Vishnu tells his father that Zoya was an eye witness to the murders. Anna orders Raghu to kill Zoya, and tells Raghu that he and the kids will walk out safe if he kills Zoya, as she is the eye witness to the Gaitondes’ murders. Eventually, Zoya picks up the gun thrown towards Raghu, and tells Raghu to kill her, so that the kids are safe. Raghu shoots, with tears rolling down his eyes, and Zoya dies in his arms. Then the police arrive and arrest Raghu for Zoya’s murder. Raghu is heartbroken in jail, and keeps remembering Zoya. Vishnu tries to kill Raghu in jail, by paying inmates to feign a brawl, because, he fears, if Raghu would be ever released, he would take revenge.

Written by Milap Zaveri, who also directs, the film is more in the vein of his last, a commercially successful film, Satyamev Jayate, than his forays into sex comedies: Masti, Grand Masti, Kya Kool Hain Hum 3 and the one he directed, with Sunny Leone in the lead, Mastizaade. His debut romantic comedy film, called Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hai, had bombed, as did Mastizaade. Recently, he told a publication, “Years back, someone had told me that Subhash Ghai had planned a film called Devaa with Amit ji (Amitabh Bachchan), where the villain was Liliput (a dwarf actor-writer, real name M.M. Faruqui) Sir. That film got shelved, but that piece of trivia always stayed with me.” And it took shape as the character of Vishnu. Whereas we marvel at the technology used to dwarf Riteish Deshmukh (CGI? Sensors? Motion capture?), a luxury that was scarce when KamalHaasan did Appu Raja, there is nothing new about the character’s villainy.

Writer Zaveri believes in only two types of dialogue—attempted claptrap or lines from other films and film songs, like the one he twists around from Mukaddar Ka Sikandar. Many of the lines are expected to be funny but fall flat. Those that are meant to draw applause often lead to stifled yawns. And those that are taken from other films or popular sayings only point towards creative bankruptcy. Take the ‘volcano’ lines for example. Or the Harmonica/Monica pun. Or the ‘Jummey kee raat hai line’. Once in a while, the lines hit the right chord, like the loyalty and next birth reference.

As director, he recycles three popular film hit songs of yesteryear, with a fresh version each. To his credit, he gives his actors ample scope to perform, and they do not disappoint. Vishnu being what he is, physically and mentally, keeps in character. Raghu gets to do both flips of the coin, first as a hardened strong-arm man and then as a molten lover who is forced to kill his beloved, lands in jail and mopes and drinks after coming out. Zoya is mute, and that earns her 200% sympathy, against the 100% antipathy-sympathy blend that Vishnu attracts. Narayan is caught up between filial love and doing right by a loyal servant. Only the Assistant Commissioner of Police Ravi Yadav (Ravi Kishan) is a poorly written role, which fact dawns on Zaveri rather late, and he sort of redeems him at the climax, giving him famous ending lines.

All action is unequal. Raghu is never attacked by less than seven heavies, a figure that sometimes doubles. They all attack together, and get airborne together. Then, Raghu starts giving each one the treatment, breaking their bones, individually. Why nobody tries to eliminate him using a gun is beyond comprehension. And there are four….five?…six?…such fights, all of them lasting long enough to make you grimace. An iron rod is thrust into a chest, a man’s legs are chopped off by swords, Zoya is shot in the heart in mid close-up, with blood gushing out like a fountain…and the list goes on. Incidentally, the film is edited by Milap’s brother Maahir Zaveri.

Riteish Deshmukh proves that he has talent way beyond the silly comedies that have him doing impressions of Sanjeev Kumar et al. Sidharth Malhotra flexes his muscles, mouths deep dialogue and has tons of slo mo to make an impact, which he does. Though he shakes the earth many times during his fights, this is still not an earth shaking performance. Tara Sutaria is innocent and heart-tugging, though her introduction scene, before it is revealed that she is mute, is rather incredible. Rakul Preet Singh as Aarzoo, a prostitute-dancer who sleeps with Raghu, is type-cast, with typical dialogue. Hers is another poorly written role, after the ACP’s. Nassar speaks surprisingly good Hindi for an ‘Anna’, and looks every inch the part. No wonder the favourite villain of South India has now entrenched himself in Hindi movies too. Shaad Randhawa is good while Ravi Kishan makes the best of a poor role. Varinder Singh Ghuman has a physique that should take him to Hollywood soon, and his climactic fight is well conceived. Godaan Kumar as Shafi has a turnaround scene that will gladden supporters of the protagonist. Uday Nene is another bit of typecasting. Nora Fatehi (Special Appearance in Song ‘Ek Toh Kum Zindagani’) and Nushrat Bharucha (dancer in song ‘Peeyu Datke’) do what they do best: shake a leg and the other leg, and the rest of their bodies. Milap Zaveri uses a narrator’s Voice-Over when none was necessary and makes the first shot the cut for the intermission at the halfway mark.

Milap Zaveri has no love lost for critics and their ratings, because, he says, many films with poor ratings have been super hits and have done business in excess of Rs. 100 crores (1 billion). We are doing our job, Mr. Zaveri, like you are doing yours. And like we are entitled to ours, you are most welcome to your opinion.

Rating: **