Mardaani 2 Review: The Rani Mukherji Movie Has a Myopic View of Rape and Punishment for Rapists

Bollywood

Mardaani 2 Review: The Rani Mukherji Movie Has a Myopic View of Rape and Punishment for Rapists

Illustration: Arati Gujar

In the last couple of years, if there is anything more frustrating than a Rani Mukherji film, it certainly is listening to Rani Mukherji promoting it. In an interview last year – right on the heels of the #MeToo reckoning in the country – Mukherji stated that women across all ages should learn martial arts to protect themselves from sexual harassment. Putting the onus on women to safeguard themselves from possible harm instead of holding men accountable for their behaviour, was the line of thought that the actress comfortably paraded as the solution to sexual violence. A year later – timed to her upcoming release, Mardaani 2, a rape-revenge saga – the actress seems to have slightly tweaked the contents of her “rape-solving” kit. In an interview last week, she claimed that the message she wanted viewers – particularly women – to take away from the film was to use violence as a means of “self-reliance and self-defence”. Essentially now, the solution to sexual violence is just more violence.

Directed by Gopi Muthran, Mardaani 2, the follow-up to Pradeep Sarkar’s uneven Mardaani – basically a female spin on Rohit Shetty’s morally righteous cop template – opens with a bunch of statistics about rape that paint a dismal state of the safety of women in the country. Thrown into the mix is an acknowledgement of the involvement of minors in innumerable cases of sexual violence. The amount of culpability that is legally accorded to juveniles accused of rape remains a thorny point of contention that comes without any easy answers, as evidenced in the judgement of the Dec 16 Delhi gang rape. At the outset, the makers of Mardaani 2, however, make it amply clear that this isn’t the kind of film that is interested in doing justice to any of that complexity. Instead, the film’s promotions involved hoardings plastered across the city that yelled, “Does the age of the rapist matter at all?” – a line that is more of a statement rather than a question with conflicting answers.

mardaani 2

Yash Raj Films

Mardaani 2 itself, is nothing more than just an excuse to ride on the overwhelming public rage against the inaction towards violence against women. It looks to satiate the dangerous demands of mob justice to such an extent that the film ends up romanticising it. For close to 105 minutes, Mardaani 2 traces Police Superintendent Shivani Shivaji Roy’s (Mukherji overacts) tireless, aggressive manhunt for a young serial rapist only for that climax sequence where she ends up violently beating him. There is nothing in the film’s decision to tell a story about rape or the fallacies of justice beyond this dangerous exchange that seems to drive home one point: In cases of rape, taking the law in your hands – even if you are someone who wears the uniform – for the greater good is justified, necessary even.

Mardaani 2 itself, is nothing more than just an excuse to ride on the overwhelming public rage against the inaction towards violence against women.

It’s an even sinister shade of the garden-variety endorsement of vigilante justice that Hindi films have continued to make a meal out of. If Mom, a film that has a mother take the law in her own hands to exact revenge from her daughter’s rapist, depended on mining sympathy, then Mardaani 2 thrives on making a crime scene out of collective rage. Naturally, the sequences that feature actual rapes and murders are stacked with exploitative shots of mutilated bodies in various stages of nakedness and bloodied faces. These are played up, insensitively, everytime the occasion arises for the makers to remind the viewer that revenge – and specifically blood-curling violence – is the need of the hour.

The film’s timing, which comes a few weeks after the Telangana police killed the four suspects accused for the violent rape and murder of the 26-year-old veterinary doctor in an encounter, makes its myopic view of rape and its punishment an even troubling affair. It’s impossible to look at Mardaani 2 as anything other than an endorsement of these events, one that is against sticking by the codes of civilised society. To that end, Mardaani 2 frequently mistakes revenge with punishment and justice with an unchecked display of power. In that sense, it is even more depolorable than boastful the tone-deafness of Rohit Shetty’s Simmba.

By the end of Mardaani 2, one thing is clear: There is nothing worse than Rani Mukherji’s “solutions” to combating sexual assault – whether on-screen or off-screen.

Comments

Translate (Beta) »