There are three kinds of villains in Mohit Suri’s new film Ek Villain. A retro, ponytailed mafiosi kind, whose fiefdom covers the seas of Goa, played with extreme awkwardness by Remo Fernandes; a crony of this don, the angry young man kind of villain with all the tropes of a good boy-turned-gangster—we’ve seen this guy in our movies, since Amitabh Bachchan’s youth and years before that—played by Sidharth Malhotra with a formulaic brooding pallor; and a psychotic killer driven by misogyny—an anaesthetic Riteish Deshmukh who evokes neither fear nor revulsion.
So villainy is far from thrilling in Ek Villain.
Guru (Malhotra) meets Ayesha (Shraddha Kapoor), a young woman so effervescent that you wouldn’t be off the mark if you think she is on a potent mood-enhancing drug. The criminal male softens over the running time of a long, lugubrious song and falls in love with her. There are major hurdles in this fairy tale, one of which is Rakesh (Deshmukh), who is on a killing spree.
Suri’s treatment of violence and psychosis is banal, seemingly to please that nebulous mass called “Indian audience". He borrows heavily from the Korean film I Saw The Devil by Kim Jee-woon, and unlike it or the genre of sharply scripted and executed Asian gore, usually driven by Christian ideas of sin and redemption, the serial killer in Suri’s film has a prosaic impulse, even a middle-class justification. Why else would a man go around town killing women if he was not an honest salaried man nagged by his wife (Aamna Sharif) because he can’t buy her expensive jewellery, or ridiculed by a boss who is, of course, a woman? Every woman in Ek Villain is inclined to hysteria and hectoring. In the cast, Suri includes Kamaal R. Khan, the Hindi film industry’s perennial attention-seeker on social media. Much worse than his Twitter avatar, and perhaps gratifyingly so for him, Khan is Rakesh’s buddy and a mouthpiece for middle-class male frustration. He even gets an entire monologue that explains why the hardworking men have to hit their wives.
You can’t be fooled by the randomness of this script by Tushar Hiranandani and Milap Zaveri because there is not enough suspense or flair in Suri’s execution to make you overlook the gaping holes. Every character is sketchy, with unexplained impulses and without believable backstories. All the performances are painfully dull, with Kapoor hitting the other extreme note—of shrill, frothy and mindless theatrics.
Ek Villain is an ugly ode to misogyny. On the other hand, it is an opportunity wasted for a spectacularly violent film free of middle-class dross.