Review: ‘Animal’ (2023), starring Ranbir Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Bobby Deol, Rashmika Mandanna and Tripti Dimri

December 12, 2023

by Carla Hay

Ranbir Kapoor in “Animal” (Photo courtesy of AA Films)

“Animal” (2023)

Directed by Sandeep Reddy Vanga

Hindi with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in India and in the United States, the action film “Animal” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A “bad boy” from a rich family gets into violent feuds with family members and other people. 

Culture Audience: “Animal” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners and don’t mind watching long-winded movies with mindless plots and gory and excessive violence.

Cast members of “Animal.” Pictured sitting in front, from left to right: Adyaan Sachdeva, Suresh Oberoi and Ananya Bhati. Pictured standing in back, from left to right: Kalyan Vittapu, Siddhant Karnick, Saloni Batra, Anil Kapoor, Charu Shankar, Anshul Chauhan and Ranbir Kapoor. (Photo courtesy of AA Films)

Trashy, idiotic, and filled with disgusting bloody violence that’s overly repetitive, “Animal” is excruciatingly too long at about 200 minutes. This garbage movie has no redeeming qualities. It’s yet another stupid story about feuding and vengeful families. All of the acting performances are unimpressive. And to make things worse, by the end of this irritating dump of the movie, it’s obvious that it was made with a sequel in mind.

Written and directed by Sandeep Reddy Vanga, “Animal” has a very tiresome and over-used plot. A “rogue” goes on killing sprees to gain power and to avenge things that happened to his family. If a movie like this is done right, audiences will root for this anti-hero. But when the central character is an unrelenting jerk with no charm or wit, there’s no reason to care.

Unfortunately, “Animal” (which takes place primarily in India and in the United States) panders to the lowest and worst possible choices on how this story could have gone. The movie has several characters who are just empty vessels for the awful dialogue that they have to spew. And the plot twists (especially in the film’s mid-credits scene) are just too ridiculous to take.

The central character in this moronic mess is Ranvijay “Vijay” Singh (played by Ranbir Kapoor), who is the rebellious son of wealthy business mogul Balbir Singh (played by Anil Kapoor, no relation to Ranbir Kapoor). Balbir has inherited the Delhi-based company Swastik Steel, which he hopes to pass on to Vijay. Balbir, who is Swastik Steel’s CEO, is frustrated and worried that Vijay isn’t responsible enough to take over the company. Vijay’s history of getting into trouble has brought shame and scandal to the family.

The Singh family is a large clan that includes Balbir’s wife/Vijay’s mother Jyoti Singh (played by Charu Shankar), who is a typical “trophy wife” socialite. Vijay is the middle child with two siblings. Vijay’s older sister Reet Singh (played by Saloni Batra) is frequently embarrassed by Vijay. Vijay’s younger sister Roop Singh (played by Anshul Chauhan) is more tolerant of Vijay. Balbir is preoccupied with his work, so he often neglected his kids when they were growing up. This neglect is a touchy subject for Vijay, who has “daddy issues.”

Reet’s husband Varun Pratap Malhotra (played by Siddhant Karnick) is a high-ranking executive at Swastik Steel. Reet and Varun have two children: a son (played by Adyaan Sachdeva) and a daughter (played by Ananya Bhati). Other members of the family are Balbir’s father Rajdheer Dodamal Singh, nicknamed Dadaji (played by Suresh Oberoi) and Balbir’s mother Rani Kaur Singh, nicknamed Beeji (played by Madhu Raja), who don’t do much in the movie. Varun also has a brother (played by Kalyan Vittapu), who is a trusted confidant.

Near the beginning of the movie, Vijay is in his mid-20s, and the Singh family is attending the engagement party of a family friend named Gitanjali, nicknamed Gitu (played by Rashmika Mandanna), who has known Vjay since they were children and schoolmates. Vijay still has romantic feelings for Gitanjali, but this is his idea of a complimentary pickup line: At the party, he tells Gitanjali that she has a wide pelvis, which is ideal for giving birth.

Vijay and Varun get into an argument at the party. Vijay tells Reet not to interfere. Upset and mortified that Vijay is causing a scene, his father takes him aside to scold him: “I thought you had grown up!”

It turns out that Vijay has returned to India after being sent away to boarding school in the United States. Why was he sent away? When he was a teenager, Vijay found out that some guys in Reet’s college were bullying her. In response (which the movie shows as a flashback), Vijay showed up at the school with an AK-47 rifle, went to a classroom where he knew the bullies would be, and shot the gun in the classroom to “scare” the bullies. Luckily, no one was hurt or killed.

One can assume that Vijay didn’t spend any time in jail for this heinous crime because of his father’s money and power. One can also assume that it’s just a way for the “Animal” filmmakers to show unnecessary violence for violence’s sake. It’s just one of many examples in the movie that demonstrate how much of an unstable and loathsome jerk Vijay is.

Incredibly, Vijay is able to convince Gitanjali to break off her engagement after he confesses to her that he’s been in love with her for years. Gitanjali and Vijay quickly get engaged, and then they elope for their wedding by going to a remote mountaintop for the ceremony. They arrive by a private plane, with Vijay as the pilot and Gitanjali as the only passenger.

For their honeymoon, Vijay has arranged for a king-sized bed to be placed outdoors on the airstrip. He thinks it would be romantic for them to have sex outdoors on this bed. At first, Gitanjali is reluctant and self-conscious, but changes her mind when Vijay convinces her that no on else will see them.

Vijay and Gitanjali also have sex in the airplane. Later, Vijay plays Gitanjali the “black box” recording of them having sex. He thinks it’s hilarious that Gitanjali didn’t know that everything had been recording without her knowledge or consent.

At the 60th birthday party of Balbir, Vijay has another argument with Varun. This time, a fed-up Balbir kicks Vijay out of the party. In anger, Vijay decides that he and Gitanjali will move to the United States and become estranged from his family. Vijay and Gitanjali start their own family in the United States, where their son and daughter are born. But since Vijay is a narcissistic cretin, the marriage runs into major problems for exactly the reasons you think it does.

Vijay’s estrangement from his parents and other family members lasts for eight years. Vijay ends up back in India after Balbir is nearly assassinated. Vijay finds out that a rival named Asrar Haque (played by Babloo Prithiveeraj) was behind this murder plot. Asrar has a brother named Abrar Haque (played by Bobby Deol), who works with Asrar in their dirty deals. And you know what that means for someone like Vijay: He’s going on a revenge rampage.

“Animal” is a tangled slog of betrayals, murders, family feuds, near-death experiences, spying, look-alikes deceiving people, and a bizarre and unnecessary scene where Vijay parades around his estate naked after an unrealistic medical transformation. It’s all so mind-numbing and senseless. And although Vijay and Gitanjali are married for several years in the story, he treats her with such disrespect, the movie fails to convince that Vijay could love anyone but himself.

Violence is expected for most action movies, but the murders and torture in “Animal” are done with such sadistic glee, it will surely make some viewers feel sick. In “Animal,” it’s not enough for someone to get slashed or stabbed. The slashing or stabbing is shown as overkill, with the murderer having an evil smirk while getting soaked in the victim’s blood.

Toward the end of this soulless movie, “Animal” has one of the weirdest-looking showdown scenes you’ll ever see, with body contortions that would not be in a real fight. And it’s one of those “only in a movie” showdowns where henchmen thugs just stand around and watch instead of helping their leader. Viewers will despise “Animal” even more for how everything just gets dragged out for too long in this scene. People are tortured in the movie, but anyone who watches all of “Animal” experiences the torture of a horrible movie that is too long and takes itself too seriously.

AA Films released “Animal” in U.S. cinemas and in India on December 1, 2023.

Review: ‘Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar,’ starring Ranbir Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor

March 10, 2023

by Carla Hay

Ranbir Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor in “Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar” (Photo courtesy of Yash Raj Films)

“Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar”

Directed by Luv Ranjan

Hindi with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in India and in Spain, the romantic comedy film “Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar” features a predominantly Indian cast of characters (with some white people) representing the working-class, middle-class and the wealthy.

Culture Clash: A 30-year-old wealthy heir, who has a secret business where he is paid to help people break up with their love partners, has a passionate, whirlwind romance with a woman he met during a vacation, and she unknowingly hires him so that she can break up with him. 

Culture Audience: “Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners and don’t mind watching predictable and long-winded romantic comedies where almost everything looks phony.

Anubhav Singh Bassi, Ranbir Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor and Monica Chaudhary in “Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar” (Photo courtesy of Yash Raj Films)

“Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar” is so formulaic, you can predict within the first 15 minutes what’s going to happen and how this romantic comedy is going to end. The entire movie is built on the shaky foundation that two lovers wouldn’t know each other’s undisguised voices over the phone. There’s no originality at all in this tiresome romantic comedy. And the 150-minute total running time is just too long for plot this lightweight and stupid.

Directed by Luv Ranjan (who co-wrote the movie’s terrible screenplay with Rahul Mody), “Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar” (which roughly means “You Liar Main Mecca” in Hindi) has the biggest clichés possible for a romantic comedy and does nothing clever with these stereotypes. The would-be couple have a “meet cute” moment. The male protagonist is good-looking, has a tendency to be arrogant, and he’s shocked when his would-be female love interest plays hard-to-get. They end up having a romance, which is then damaged because of a big secret. This dishonesty or lack of trust causes the couple to break up. But will they get back together? You already know the answer.

In “Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar” the cocky playboy is Rohan “Mickey” Arora (played by Ranbir Kapoor), the wealthy heir to a multifaceted business that was co-founded by his parents Ramesh Arora (played by Boney Kapoor, who is not related to Ranbir Kapoor) and Renu Arora (played by Dimple Kapadia), who have let Mickey take over the business. Mickey has an MBA degree, and his family’s company has thrived under his leadership. However, Mickey’s mother Renu is worried that Mickey’s partying lifestyle is a distraction that could ruin the business.

Mickey lives in a mansion in Delhi, India, with several of his family members: his parents, who own the house; his sister Minny (played by Hasleen Kaur); Minny’s daughter Sweetu (played by Inayat Verma, an adorable scene stealer), who is about 6 or 7 years old; Minny’s husband; and Ramesh’s mother (played by Jatinder Kaur). Renu is constantly scolding and lecturing Mickey to be more responsible. She’s also eager for Mickey get married and start a family of his own, so that he will move out of the house.

Even though he is a successful businessman with his family’s company, Mickey has a secret business with his best friend Manu Dabbas (played by Anubhav Singh Bassi): The two men are consultants for people who want to break up with love partners. The way that the business works is that Mickey and Manu usually hire people to “tempt” someone to committing infidelity, which is then documented as proof that the cheating happened. It’s all part of a set-up so that the partner who was cheated on can use the infidelity as an excuse to break up with that person.

It’s a horrible and sleazy way to make money (and Mickey certainly doesn’t need the money), so the movie is already off-putting in how it expects audiences to root for Mickey, who willfully participates in hurting people and ruining relationships. Somehow, Mickey thinks there’s nothing wrong with what he’s doing because the people who are his clients are strangers to him. Of course, the table turns on Mickey when he becomes the target of a breakup scheme—and his breakup business is the one hired to instigate the breakup.

Before that happens, the movie wastes a lot of time showing the antics of Mickey and Manu. Manu is engaged to a woman named Kinchi (played by Monica Chaudhary), but he wants to break up with her before their upcoming wedding. In a poorly written sequence, Manu asks Mickey to do something to get Kinchi to break up with Manu. Mickey’s ill-conceived plan doesn’t work. And it all happens at the funeral of Manu’s grandfather. It all looks so bizarre and unbelievable.

Mickey, Manu, and Kinchie then travel to Spain for Manu’s bachelor party. They stay at a luxury resort near a beach. It’s a fateful vacation, because it’s where Mickey meets 27-year-old Nisha “Tinni” Malhotra (played by Shraddha Kapoor, who is not related to Ranbir Kapoor and Boney Kapoor), who is a friend of Kinchie’s. There’s an elaborate musical sequence that takes place in a nightclub, Tinni and Mickey end up being backup dancers to the singer who’s performing. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

It’s attraction at first sight for Mickey who doesn’t waste time in asking Tinni if she’s single and available. The answer is “yes,” but that doesn’t mean that Tinni will make it easy for Mickey to court her. However, when they start dating, things heat up between Tinni and Mickey so quickly, by the end of the vacation, he’s ready to marry her. The movie has a lot of repetitive music video-styled scenes of Tinni and Mickey in romantic bliss.

Things for this new couple also go smoothly when it comes to their families meeting each other. Tinni’s father (played by Rajesh Jais) and Tinni’s mother (played Ayesha Raza Mishra) are thrilled that Tinni is headed toward marriage to a handsome and rich businessman. Mickey’s parents approve of Tinni. When both sets of parents meet each other for the first time, Mickey uses the occasion to propose marriage to Tinni, who says yes.

But there would be no “Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar” if this romance didn’t have any problems. Mickey has a tendency to be clingy with Tinni, who worries about losing her independence in this relationship. Mickey also expects his future wife to live with him and his parents in the family mansion, and Tinni doesn’t like that idea. Tinni secretly decides she wants to break up with Mickey, but she doesn’t know how to do it on her own. And who does she call for help? She heard about a certain breakup consulting business that has been successful in helping people end relationships.

When Tinni calls this business, using an undisguised voice, Mickey gets the call. And like a fool, he doesn’t recognize Tinni’s voice because he can’t even comprehend that Tinni would ever need this service. Likewise, when Tinni is on the phone with someone she doesn’t know is Mickey, she doesn’t recognize his undisguised voice either. Does any of this sound believable or logical to you? If you’re willing to let this idiotic part of the movie slide, then you might enjoy “Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar” more than it deserves.

During this ridiculous charade of hidden identities, Tinni’s London-based co-worker Anya (played by Nushrat Bharucha) is enlisted to tempt Mickey into cheating. Mickey is the one who anonymously hired her, not knowing that he was the target of this infidelity temptation. Kartik Aaryan has a cameo as Tinni’s former college boyfriend Rahul. The rest of the movie wastes more time with more lies and deception, which make Tinni and Mickey look even more idiotic at how long they haven’t figured out each other’s secret.

Probably the best thing about “Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar” is Santhana Krishnan Ravichandran’s cinematography, which makes the musical numbers and vacation scenes look fleetingly fun and glamorous. But these are visual elements that can’t cover up the rotten storytelling that’s at the core of “Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar.” And it’s kind of pathetic that these characters in their late 20s and early 30s are acting like immature teenagers.

To make matters even more tedious, all of the principal characters are rehashed versions of many other romantic comedy characters. No one does a particularly outstanding job with the acting, although Verma as precocious Sweetu has a delightful screen presence as a child actress. The overly long run time of the movie (which has a lot of musical numbers as filler) will just add to viewer irritation, unless watching a subpar romantic comedy is how the viewer wants to waste two-and-a-half hours. “Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar” has a lot of pretty locations and pretty people, but the movie is ultimately superficial and boring junk.

Yash Raj Films released “Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on March 8, 2023.

Review: ‘Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva,’ starring Amitabh Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Mouni Roy and Nagarjuna Akkineni

September 9, 2022

by Carla Hay

Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Amitabh Bachchan in “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” (Photo courtesy of Star India Pvt. Ltd./Walt Disney Pictures)

“Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva”

Directed by Ayan Mukerji

Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in India, the sci-fi/fantasy film in “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” features a predominantly Indian cast of characters (with some white people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A man finds out his connection to a secret society that channels mystical energy, as he is chased around by villains while he tries to prevent an apocalypse. 

Culture Audience: “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” will appeal primarily to fans of stars Amitabh Bachchan and Ranbir Kapoor and will appeal to anyone who doesn’t mind watching sci-fi/fantasy movies that treat audiences like idiots.

Ranbir Kapoor and Akkineni Nagarjuna in “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” (Photo courtesy of Star India Pvt. Ltd./Walt Disney Pictures)

The over-indulgent and moronic “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” is an example of what happens when people spend too much money to make a movie and not enough effort to craft a coherent story and offer good performances. This abomination is an absolute chore to watch and will test the patience of viewers who have better things to do with their time, such as stare at a wall. At least when you stare at a wall, you won’t be annoyed by a constant barrage of stupidity with tacky visual effects, soundtrack music that’s too loud, and acting and dialogue so bad, it will all make you question why so many people signed off on making this obvious train wreck.

Written and directed by Ayan Mukerji, “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” is the first part of his so-called “Astraverse trilogy.” It’s as pretentious as it sounds. Here’s how this murky concept is explained in the production notes for “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva”:

“‘Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva’ begins with an image of sages in deep meditation in a mystical time in ancient India. The sages are gifted with the Light of the Universe—a Brahm-Shakti—a manifestation of the purest creative energy there is. From this Light, objects of power known as Astras are born.”

The description continues: “There are Astras that command the energy of Fire, Wind, Water and Earth, as well as Astras with the essence of different animals and plants, all derived from the natural world. These include the Jalāstra, which commands the energy of water; the Pawanāstra, wind; the Agnyāstra, fire. The Vānarāstra gives the wielder the abilities of 1,000 monkeys, and the Nandi Astra gives users the strength of 1,000 bulls. (The Bull is the carrier of Lord Shiva in Hindu mythology.) The final Astra is the last to emerge from the Light, and it contains its collective essence, becoming the Lord of all the Others, the Brahmāstra.”

The description also says: “The sages take a solemn vow to protect these Astras, and as the guardians of the Brahmāstra, they name themselves the Brahmānsh, forming a secret society that will exist amongst other men and do good for the world with the power of the Astras. Time moves forward, and the Brahmānsh carries on as well, passing on the Astras generation to generation all the way into our world today, where the Brahmānsh still exist in secret.”

All this means is that viewers will see a bunch of people running around, spouting mystical nonsense, hunting for various religious artifacts, and using weather or laser beams to do battle in the expected “good versus evil” plot. And it will be dragged out into three movies that are as irritating and nonsensical and overly long as each other, under the guise of being “epic” filmmaking. The only thing “epic” about “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” is how it’s a epic failure at clever and original filmmaking.

Sometimes, a sci-fi/fantasy movie that knows it’s silly has fun with the absurdity and makes it entertaining for the audience. “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” is not that kind of movie. It looks like an unintentional parody of all the sloppy things that are in terrible sci-fi/fantasy films. But everything is taken so seriously in “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva,” which throws in some very eye-catching but cliché musical numbers.

“Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” is an overload of sci-fi/fantasy stereotypes: There’s the good-looking lead actor, who plays a “chosen one” hero, who usually grew up without his parents, for one reason or another. And he usually finds out family secrets that are tied to his destiny/legacy. In this case, the hero’s name is Shiva (played by Ranbir Kapoor), who’s apparently a rock-star-like party DJ in his spare time and can draw festival-sized crowds, because that’s how he’s first seen on film.

There’s the older man who acts as a mentor to the hero. That’s the lazily named Guru (played by Amitabh Bachchan), who is supposed to be a sage leader but comes across as wooden and stiff. There’s the “secret society” of warriors/fighters who are allies to the hero. In this movie, this secret society is called Brahmāstra, with Guru as their leader.

There’s the pretty love interest who somehow does fight scenes, chase scenes and other action scenes that would break bones in real life, but she gets maybe a bruise or two, and her hair and makeup stay intact. That’s Isha (played by Alia Bhatt), who is every worst stereotype of the female love interest who lacks substance. She has some of the worst lines in this already horrendous movie.

This is what Isha and Shiva say in their “meet cute” moment, which happens after they lock eyes in a corny slow-motion shot at one of Shiva’s DJ dance parties, where people are worshipping the Hindu goddess Durga: An awestruck Isha says to Shiva: “Who are you?” Shiva replies, “What are you?” Then he says, “I really like you.” And within hours of meeting Isha, Shiva is telling her that he loves her. Try not to retch.

There’s the sought-after mysterious person who might hold the crucial answers to the hero’s quest. That’s someone named Anish Shetty, also known as Artist (played by Nagarjuna Akkineni), who has an important artifact that Shiva needs. He gets caught up in some of the fight scenes. All of the movie’s action scenes are either very far-fetched or just plain formulaic.

There’s the chief villain, who has any number of cronies. In “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva,” that chief villain is a sorceress anmed Junoon (played by Mouni Roy), whose idea of being scary is smirking, glaring, and ultimately being a very generic nemesis. Junoon’s thugs include hulking Raftaar (played by Saurav Gurjar) and manipulative Zor (played by Rouhallah Gazi), who do a lot of snarling, grunting and fighting.

If you’ve seen this type of sci-fi/fantasy movie many times, then you’ll find no real surprises in “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva,” which is an excruciating 167 minutes long. “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” is just more of the same derivative sci-fi/fantasy, but worse than the usual formulaic junk. This horrible, bloated movie is an assault on people’s intelligence. If you can avoid it, do not subject yourself to this aggravation.

Walt Disney Pictures released “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” in U.S. cinemas on September 9, 2022.

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