By: Keyur Seta
Director: Pradeep Sarkar
Producers: Aditya Chopra for Yash Raj Films
Writers: Pradeep Sarkar, Gopi Puthran and S Hussain Zaidi
Cast: Rani Mukerji, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Anil George, Jisshu Sengupta
Rating: * * * ½
Story Outline: The name of the ruthless Crime Branch officer Shivani Shivaji Roy (Rani Mukerji) sends shivers down the spine of criminals. She stays in Mumbai with her husband (Jisshu Sengupta) and niece. She also shares a motherly bond with a teenage orphan Pyari (Priyanka Sharma). Shivani’s strength and dedication are tested when Pyari is kidnapped by a gang of a sex traffickers headed by the monstrous Walt (Tahir Raj Bhasin).
Review: Action films on the theme of good versus evil are done to death in Hindi cinema. But despite Pradeep Sarkar’s Mardaani also being based on the same idea, it is surely not as ordinary as plenty of films made on this genre. The reasons for this are that it follows an uncompromising narrative, gives a heart-touching message and, most importantly, makes way for a women-centric action thrillers; something that is so lacking in Indian cinema.
Sarkar had all the resources and budget (considering it’s a YRF film) to add a number of commercial factors to increase the film’s reach. So it is commendable that he steered clear from any such temptation by being honest to the subject, even if it means showing disturbing visuals of the working style of sex traffickers. This results in a gripping tale that doesn’t lose focus or goes off track even a bit. There is always a scope for item numbers in such subjects but, fortunately, he doesn’t give into that too.
There is no denying that the film treads on predictive lines for most of the duration. But the above mentioned point and a powerfully moving climax make sure you won’t mind that. In fact, you get goose pimples during the ending moments through the message given without being preachy, just through visuals and symbolism.
The only big problem here is that neither Shivani nor any of her team members ever tries to trace the numerous calls Walt made to her. Come on! You guys are Crime Branch officers! Coming to Shivani’s relation with Pyari, we are only made to assume about that as there is not a single scene between both of them. Due to this, the actor playing Pyari, Priyanka Sharma, gets hardly any scope.
As it is not a music-oriented film, there is just one song, Mardaani Anthem, and rightly so. Its Sanskrit Mantras (Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu) and powerful lyrics create a thundering effect when it is played during the ending moments. Artur Zurawski’s camerawork is skillful. It plays its part in adding intensity.
By completely getting into the character of a lethal cop, Rani Mukerji gives an applaud-worthy performance. It is a pleasure to see her perform those fight scenes. With this performance, she becomes the frontrunner for women-oriented action thrillers in Hindi cinema. Hopefully, this should encourage more filmmakers and producers to try such experiments.
But there is Tahir Raj Bhasin too who is super-impressive as the bad guy and that too in his very first film. He surely deserves to be seen more. Anil George plays his part well as another bad guy. Mona Ambegaonkar is terrific in a supporting role. Jisshu Sengupta and Priyanka Sharma are decent. The latter deserved more footage.
Overall: Mardaani succeeds in being a bold and hard-hitting crime thriller that also throws light on a timely issue. It deserves rapid positive word-of-mouth to succeed at the box office due to a lack of hype and low-key promotions.