‘Ek Villain Returns’ movie review: As plastic as the smiley mask, despite Arjun Kapoor’s best efforts

Always good in parts with gray shades, Arjun Kapoor is the only nut that smoothly moves in this bulky vehicle, while a miscast John Abraham struggles alongside Tara Sutaria and Disha Patani

Published - July 29, 2022 01:13 pm IST

A still from ‘Ek Villain Returns’

A still from ‘Ek Villain Returns’

Being described as a spiritual sequel to Ek Villain, this Mohit Suri film shares more in flavour with the murky crime series that dot the OTT universe — particularly producer Ekta Kapoor’s platform — than his 2014 film that showcased the genteel Riteish Deshmukh as the villain-next-door.

Mounted as the source of a guilty pleasure for an audience that lives for the likes on social media, the main storyteller here is the editor (Devendra Murdeshwar) who has turned a simple story, that could be told in a trailer, into a jumbled mass by going into frequent flashbacks. The audience is expected to focus on the legs, cleavage, abs, and hairdo of the artists till the climax when the so-called big reveal — which can be seen from a distance — finally dawns.

As expected, the film celebrates the notion of one-sided love. For centuries, lovers have expressed their adhoora par poora pyar (incomplete yet realised love) through poetry, but here Suri normalises violence for spurned lovers. According to him, it doesn’t take two to complete a love story. An inspiring thought, but here the spiritual successor to Mahesh Bhatt is treading on a superficial terrain.

Gautam Mehra (Arjun Kapoor) is a hot-headed brat who breaks heads if the girl he is after says no to him. His latest muse is Aarvi (Tara Sutaria), an emerging singer who has made a music video on Gautam’s transgressions. Gautam plots Aarvi’s rise on the stage... but one day, she goes missing.

Because of his past record, the needle of suspicion is on Gaurav, as well as on a taxi driver Bhairav (John Abraham) who keeps requesting patrons to give him good ratings. After a point, it seems John is addressing the critics! Ditched by a morally-agnostic Rasika (Disha Patani), the simpleton Bhairav seems to be trying to become the messiah of jilted lovers.

In the story where the actors describe themselves and each other as villains, vamps, and punters, the audience is expected to choose the lesser evil as the hero. Like the ham-fisted police in the film, the director’s gaze seems to be on the side of the serial killer.

The lyrical base that defined Suri’s twisted love stories in the past is also missing here. Apart from Tera Naam Dil Rakh Diya by Kunal Vermaa and Kaushik-Guddu, the lyrics of the rest of the songs get lost in the stylish but loud soundtrack, making it hard for the audience to believe in the motivations of the protagonists. The anguish behind the smiley mask feels as plastic as the smirk on the mask.

Not just the flimsy storyline, but the production design and action choreography look unconvincing as well. The regular car and bike sequences that use visual effects fail to pass muster. Even the much-anticipated match-up between John and Arjun on a moving train fizzles after the initial promise.  

Shraddha Kapoor is sorely missed, as Tara only twinkles in the lighter moments. When things get serious, she misses the character’s trajectory. Meanwhile, Disha fails to internalise the challenging role and focuses on giving fitness goals instead.

No such issues with Arjun Kapoor. Always good in parts with gray shades, the burly actor is the only nut that smoothly moves in this bulky vehicle. John Abraham is miscast in a role that demands an everyman harbouring unalloyed love for a materialistic girl. For once, a role tests his acting muscles, but John offers his best punch forward instead; he requires padding of a different kind. When the smiley mask comes off, Bhairav has to cry. So Suri creates an injury mark on John’s cheek which creates an impression that he is shedding tears of blood! Watch this only if somebody else is paying for the ticket. 

Ek Villain Returns is currently running in theatres

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