Animal, for all its blood and gore, is the story of a son’s aching desire for his father’s approval. Why, even its ballads are less romance, more revenge. And its female characters, for all their luminosity, are just props.
At its heart is Ranbir Kapoor, though you are never sure if he is the titular character for the antagonist is as much of a beast as he is. Seldom does a Hindi film (which Animal with its multi-lingual format is not) have heroes and anti-heroes who are less than physically spectacular.
In its first half, the movie uses a clever twist, not revealing Kapoor’s full name till intermission. The son of India’s largest steel baron, he remains hungry for fatherly affection and attention. He is also a sensitive brother to two sisters and takes it upon himself to avenge a nasty bout of bullying his elder sister has been subjected to.
Yet, Anil Kapoor as the father sees only a criminal in the son he is rearing and packs him off to boarding school. In his mental make-up, you see glimpses of Kapoor from Rockstar and in his physical transformation bits from Barfi. And in the film’s closing moments you glimpse the Kapoor from Sanju. Yet in Animal, Kapoor is more than the sum of these parts.
Thereafter are twists and turns in which logic has no play. The dialogue often ventures into pedestrian territory and the humour, at one place about underwear, is clearly of the toilet variety. The action, that drew whistles from a meagre crowd on an early winter morning show is the film’s clear winner. You will spot an armoured version of the Bat Mobile and also armies of Darth Vader look-alikes. But, after a while, one action scene will merge into another till it’s all a blur of blood.
Yes, it’s a banger when the identity of the villain and his connection to the family is revealed. Bobby Deol, enjoying a scintillating second lease of life in the Hindi film industry offers a memorable thirst trap moment. And gives the younger Kapoor a knock-for-knock, bare-bodied challenge.
Animal is Kapoor’s film. Where the dialogue does not work, it’s that hint of the unshed tear in his eyes and the tremor in his face that does. The elder Kapoor as the father who realises his son’s torment too late, is as dependable as always.
Rashmika Mandanna is effective as a woman conflicted, and kudos to the director for retaining her natural accent. Tripti Dimri is luminescent in a part that should not come as a surprise. But both are ultimately wasted in this saga of alpha males— a repeated reference in the film.
The cinematography shines at places — such as when the red of a carpet makes up for the blood that is yet to be spilt. But the music adds little, despite its stand-alone value.
Animal dangles the possibility of a sequel. And if it gets to that, make sure you stay off popcorn during the show. For the squeamish among us, it will taste of blood. That’s the gory power of this paisa vasool film, which requires more guts than rationale.
Director: Sandeep Reddy Vanga
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Bobby Deol, Rashmika Mandanna, Tripti Dimri, Shakti Kapoor, Prem Chopra