Director: Gopi Puthran
Mardaani 2 wastes no time in getting straight to the point. In its very opening minutes a young man in a monster’s mask (or the other way around, you might argue) commits a crime so heinous, it makes your skin crawl just taking in the extent of his depravity. No-nonsense, tough-as-nails cop Shivani Shivaji Roy, played by Rani Mukerji, is tasked with ferreting out the perpetrator.
Over a crisp 105 minutes, writer-director Gopi Puthran stages an elaborate cat and mouse chase that is both thrilling and frequently unconvincing. Sunny, the young fellow Shivani is pursuing is a serial rapist and murderer whose staggering misogyny and propensity for brutal violence, we later learn, is rooted in his own dark past. Vishal Jethwa plays Sunny as a sadistic, unhinged villain who wants to put women in their place, reminding them repeatedly not to rise above their ‘aukaat’.
Like in 2014’s Mardaani, Shivani relies on her gut, her experience, and her intelligence to figure out the villain’s moves and the way that he tends to think. In that film, she was pitted against a child trafficker, and Tahir Bhasin played him as educated, smooth, and crafty. The villain here is considerably younger in age and blinded by hate. Somehow Shivani’s gut seems to penetrate the minds of all men.
The film is intended, no doubt, as a wish-fulfillment fantasy. It holds up a mirror to our times when crimes against women are an unfortunate reality. Shivani delivers on screen the justice that has proved hard to come by in real life. I’ll leave you to decide how you feel about that messaging – it’s complicated.
Ultimately Mardaani 2 benefits from the strong performances of both Rani Mukerji and her young co-star Vishal Jethwa. It’s brisk, slickly shot, and plays to the gallery. I’m going with three out of five.
Rating: 3 / 5