ANIMAL: AN INSULT TO MEN, WOMEN AND ANIMALS
Dr. Shoma A. Chatterji delivers a critical review of the Bollywood movie "Animal." In her analysis, she explores the film's controversial portrayal of toxic masculinity, family dynamics, and societal norms. Dr. Chatterji questions the impact of the movie on the cinematic landscape and expresses concern about its potential influence on the future of humanity.
What is the problem with the film Animal? Everything you can imagine. In fact, it reverses the very definition of cinema as a mode of mass entertainment, education, information and social change. Why and when should a director choose to name his film Animal when the protagonist is supposedly a two-legged homo sapien? When he has already decided that the protagonist of his film is anything but a human being? But why should he be labelled “animal” either? Does this not amount to degrading the entire animal community across the world?
Thank God animals cannot speak the language of humans. Had they been born with this gift and had happened to watch Animal, they would have all gathered together and pulled down all theatres screening the film and perhaps attacked the entire cast and crew of the film. Ranbir Kapoor plays the scion of a wealthy family whose violence is the result of a craving for love and validation in this terribly regressive film.
For three hours and twenty minutes of running time, you do not quite understand what hit you when you are audience to a school boy entering a class with a gun in his hand to threaten older boys who ragged him. His father, Balbir Singh (Anil Kapoor) who heads the Swastik group of industries across the globe, is never there for his kids but the son, Ranvijay Singh (Ranbir Kapoor) keeps craving for his father’s company which he does not get. Instead of reacting against this casual treatment by his father through his growing up years with anger and bitterness against the older man, this son grows up with a father fixation no psychiatrist in the world will be able to handle. In fact, for all practical purposes, Ranvijay is a raving lunatic without any hope of cure and his father, apparently scared, is forced to allow him to do the most insulting things, in talk, behaviour, language and violence to everyone around him, man, woman and child.
Even when Ranvijay grows up into a young man, the birthday gift he gives to his father is his long hair! Can you beat that? And the father is ecstatic! But wait. That ‘gift of hair’ is limited to just that one birthday because immediately, he not only grows his hair to shoulder-length tomfoolery, but he keeps on insulting everyone around including his wife and makes very dirty remarks to the head of the family’s tailoring unit about whether he shaves his pubic hair or not and asks him to wear Ranvijay’s underwear while his wife stands speechless with shock. There are several references to male underwear and once a very derogatory comment about women’s periods but the censor board was probably fast asleep so all this passed their notice. “How? Why?” are questions better not raised as it will raise the hackles of Sandeep Reddy Vanga who is letting off very angry steam at everyone who is pointing angry fingers at his film.
The film is attacked for its “toxic masculinity.” The word “toxic” has extremely negative connotations. Wikipedia defines “toxic masculinity” as “those aspects of hegemonic masculinity that are socially destructive, such as misogyny, homophobia, and violent domination. These traits are considered "toxic" due in part to their promotion of violence, including sexual assault.” But here, the men are not spared either. The poor body double of Baldev Singh is killed by the masked enemies of the father-son duo and no one turns a hair.
Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s terrible film Animal is high on shock tactics and low on substance, quality and content.”Content”? What is that pray? The only ‘content’ this critic could draw out with great overwork of the brain is that Ranvijay is not just a lunatic but a criminal lunatic who should not be allowed to run wild with his guns, his ‘army’ which appears as suddenly as it is fell by the ‘enemy’, wearing very feary masks for what reason I really could not fathom. Are they afraid of Covid?
His father throws him out when he introduces his would-be wife who walked out of her own impending marriage to a girl who was engaged to another. In response to his father’s very angry response to his choice of marriage partner who is not of the same community, Ranvijay cheerfully kisses his would-be bride on the lips in front of the entire crowd of family and relatives and his parents and takes a private aircraft with his bride to the family’s private air-strip somewhere in the icy cliffs and he and his bride pilot the plane themselves though it is very clear that neither of them know how to fly a plane. They have sex on the flight and the crazy Ranvijay even records it to play it later to her in another ‘dirty’ situation. He also makes vulgar comments some time later about their union on the first night which is insulting to both men and women so one really does not know what is happening to the human race.
If he has walked out of his father’s ‘kingdom’ how come he so freely uses his father’s aircraft and also migrates to the US with his kids for fear to his life. “Life”? What kind of life is this where a son’s love for his father and his constant fear of saving his father from being killed leads to him killing hundreds of men purely on the suspicion that they might have been sent by his illicit “cousin”? The law, the police and the justice system simply do not exist in this ‘animal kingdom’.
When shot to near-death, he insults the medical panel that he is not going to die and dismissing them at one go. Later, of course, we learn that he has got someone else’s heart, perhaps someone else’s lungs. He can neither urinate nor have sex. If so, how does he have sex continuously for several days with the girl who is really a spy but pretends to be a grieving girlfriend of the man who gave his ‘heart’ to Ranvijay! And all this happens in the presence of his team of bodyguards and cousins.
The villain (Bobby Deol) enters the scene much later and turns out to be as crazy or perhaps crazier than our own “animal” who is hell bent on killing his uncle (Baldev Singh) and his son (Ranvijay Singh) to gain control over Swastik group of industries. His mute status is perhaps a blessing in disguise because we are spared of being constantly attacked by a profusion of vulgarity in speech, if not in manners and action in well-thought scenes of violence, violence and more violence.
Sadly, the ‘success’ of a film is now counted according to the 1000+ crores and more jingling at the ticket office of theatres across the world. Words like “form”, “content”, “quality” and “humanity” simply do not exist. Maybe, Animal offers us a glimpse into a very dark future when either by imitation or by inspiration, humanity will turn into a huge mass that is beyond sanity, ethics and emotions. This is a film which is an insult to the entire art, craft and technique of cinema. For those who have watched it already, like yours truly, point an accusing finger at yourselves for joining this collective insult to cinema. For those who have not watched it yet, please do not join the tribe.
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