Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s Animal starring Ranbir Kapoor is easily the most violent and action-packed Hindi release of the year. After a strong and impactful beginning, Reddy’s ode to alpha male toxicity gets bogged down by the strain of having to repeatedly deliver clap-worthy, adrenaline-pumping moments. While the film excels in providing some immediate gratification, it ultimately falls woefully short in creating a more enduring emotional resonance with the viewer.
Animal sees Ranjvijay (Ranbir Kapoor) idolize his father, Balbir (Anil Kapoor). However, the latter is a busy business tycoon who has little room for quality time with his son. This deep emotional void leaves the prone-to-anger Ranvijay fostering a deep yearning for his father’s attention. As a teenager, Ranjvijay commits an offence that could have resulted in imprisonment had Balbir not intervened. In response, Balbir decides to send his son away to a boarding school. Once he returns and at Balbir’s birthday celebration, a heated argument ensues between Ranvijay and his brother-in-law, Varun (Siddhant Karnick), resulting in a major discord between father and son. This leads to Balbir ordering Ranvijay to leave the house. Ranjvijay marries his school sweat-heart, Geetanjali Singh (Rashmika Mandanna), without the approval of his family and settles down in America. Years later, when Balbir is assaulted by two gunmen, Ranjvijay returns to India. He vows to protect his family and avenge those who orchestrated the attack…
Animal emerges as a crowd-pleasing mass entertainer in its best bits as Vanga orchestrates a three-hour plus spectacle that unabashedly caters to the masses. Collaborating with co-writers Pranay Reddy Vanga and Saurabh Gupta, Vanga crafts scenes that are an exhilarating blend of thrills and swagger. The high octane action sequences stand out as particular highlights even if the combat skills of Ranvijay and his band of brothers make us wonder if they run a covert commando training camp in their spare time. However, beneath the showy surface, the screenplay feels far too slight, lacking the necessary depth to etch a lasting impact. Despite the immersive potential, the filmmaker’s focus on setting up sequels dilutes the current narrative’s depth and resolution. The push for a franchise overshadows the opportunity for a more self-contained and emotionally satisfying experience.
Creating empathy for a violent and rebellious character often relies on incorporating vulnerability within him. But vulnerability is the one trait Ranvijay’s character lacks. Despite his unwavering love for his father and wife, his adoption of misogynistic beliefs and subscribing to toxic masculinity raises ethical questions in plenty. He justifies every action of his to shield his family, prompting us to reflect on such toxic stereotypes. Ranvijay’s rekindled attraction to Geetanjali involves gaslighting her and manipulating her to break off her engagement and get hitched to him. Manipulation becomes a recurring motif in Ranvijay’s life, steering situations in his favour, particularly during disagreements with Geetanjali and his sisters, Reet and Roop. The mothers, wives, and sisters portrayed in the film lack any authority whatsoever and, after some initial conflict and resentment, they are compelled to succumb to the harsh patriarchal norms and expectations imposed upon them. Jyoti (Charu Shankar) was unable to get through to her husband, Balbir, that he had wronged Ranvijay in his childhood. Gitanjali finds herself on the precipice of forgiveness, grappling with the weight of her husband’s infidelity. Meanwhile, Reet is faced the formidable task of having to embrace the harsh truth that her brother was the cause of her husband’s demise and what’s more, accept it.
Although Animal aims to provoke, it falls short of fully embracing its provocative choices. For instance, Balbir’s company logo yet Ranviijay asserts that it differs from the tilted swastika associated with the Nazis. This feigned self-awareness only intensifies the discomfort of dabbling with right-wing symbolism. Despite these flaws, the film staunchly affirms Ranvijay’s moral standing. The reason is that he is the successor of an opulence family, who wields violence as a manifestation of care and validation that he hasn’t gotten from his father. The filmmaker, instead of addressing the raw and unsettling aspects of daddy issues chooses to amplify their ugliness and brutality. As a result, it becomes tedious and exhausting, relentless in its quest to test our patience.
In his portrayal of Ranvijay Singh, Ranbir Kapoor skillfully rises above the script to navigate a delicate balance between moments of genuine, tender care and sudden explosive bursts of unprecedented violence. Anil Kapoor as Balbir Singh suffers from a lack of screen time to be able to fully flesh out his character. Rashmika Mandanna effectively communicates the dichotomy of a woman torn between her husband’s nasty violence and her own desires, primarily through her expressive eyes and nuanced facial expressions. However, in the more emotionally charged, dramatic moments, like her confrontation with Ranvijay on Karva Chauth night, she falls short in her emotive skills. Bobby Deol, as Abrar Haque, disappoints as once again like Kapoor, insufficient screen time hinders a comprehensive and nuanced depiction of his brutal and sadistic character. In her brief appearance as Zoya, a woman grappling with conflicting emotions, Tripti Dimri brings a captivating intensity to the character. For Ranvijay has been transplanted with the heart that belonged to Zoya’s ex-boyfriend and now both of them are in the throes of a passionate love affair.
The cinematography by Amit Roy is helped by the story to create some dynamic frames and contributes significantly to the film’s visual appeal. Vanga, both the editor and co-writer, demonstrates prowess in crafting intriguing transitions and delivering thrilling moments within the action sequences. But this dual role deters him from maintaining the emotional tempo throughout the second half of the film. Hari Haran’s sound design of the punches and the spraying bullets from the gun is executed with an intensifying impact on the visuals. Harshavardhan Rameshwar’s vibrant background score pulsates with energy and dynamism.
Animal emerges as a fiercely unapologetic, high-energy, and exceptionally violent thriller that scoffs at conformity. The depicted bloodshed isn’t tailored for the faint of heart, so be careful if you choose to explore it, as the intensity could be overwhelming for some. Despite the grandiosity and internal inconsistencies in Vanga’s narratives, he seems to find a semblance of coherence when delving into and unravelling the intricacies of the masculine consciousness. But overall, the film fails to pass muster as an action thriller with a brutal fringe.
Hindi, Action, Drama, Color