Bollywood goes through it trends and the current is having the leading lady as the main protagonist. Love her, hate her, it’s the classic they cannot be ignored. Some cases are of the next door neighbour like English Vinglish, and some have the woman that lost everything seeking revenge like Kahaani. Mardaani follows this protagonist trend but is the story we would skip over after reading the title from the newspaper. The one that makes our blood boil but we redirect our frustrations to social media venting or domesticity.
Shivani Shivaji Roy (Rani Mukherji) is a senior inspector in the crime branch unit in Mumbai. She is a street smart cop that follows her duty and is no shrinking flower. She knows her law and she knows what’s right. But everyone has a nightmare they hope and pray don’t come true. For Shivani, when a child name Pyaari (Priyanka Sharma) from her local shelter goes missing, she makes it her responsibility to find her. Yet even she will not be able to foresee how far she will have to go to get her back.
Now let’s begin the dissection. Regardless of what you have seen Rani do in the past, I suggest you forget all of that before you walk in. She is unlike other policewoman depicted on screen in Bollywood. However, Rani needs to work on her action and surprisingly how she delivers the hard hitting dialogues. On the opposite end, Tahir Bhasin who plays Walt sinks his teeth right in and makes you despise his cockiness. The age factor is brought out in dialogue but also adds the edge as Rani is taunted by her “Under 19 team ka 12th batsman”. The flipside of course, is how she drags out the ego in him during their interactions.
Even though there is nothing wrong with Jisshu Sengupta or Priyanka Sharma’s performance, literally everyone in the supporting cast is forgotten in the battle between Rani and Tahir. This may enhance the cat-and-mouse play between them but when the film starts to falter, even they can’t save it. It’s disappointing when the film starts off slow, peeks your interest, only to let it slide again. Screenplay could have been tauter to maintain the consistency while Sanjib Datta’s editing needed to keep verbosity in check. Cinematography by Artur Zurawski slips between cinematic sheen and real life grit.
However, credit will be given where due. Gopi Puthran’s writing definitely needs a mention since the story and facts behind it are nerve rackingly honest. Pradeep Sarkar may have been battered blue with his first film for predictability and wafer thin story line but with Mardaani he engages emotion to a level. Despite having patchy work in the second half and almost all momentum lost in the climax, the fact that the audience literally clapped as the closing credit rolled up means they were invested in the film enough to be shocked by its truths and coaxed by the slight liberties taken by its makers.
Mardaani is not an untold story but perhaps one of the few that dragged to light statistics no one wants to know. If anything can be taken away from this film, it would be the awareness of a startling and horrific truth.