On a fine Friday evening when Dilli ki sardi was slowly creeping in, I had the (mis)fortune of going to the theatre and watching Ranbir Kapoor’s Animal. The trailer made me skeptical about watching the film, however, because of the nature of my job, I had to step out. In an effort to trigger people and show what a violent film actually is, Sandeep Reddy Vanga forgot to connect his sub-plots cohesively.
Animal revolves around Ranvijay, a man who grew up with an emotionally unavailable father. The consequence of this relationship is how he goes above and beyond to get validation from his father. But the route he takes to win his father’s attention is full of unbridled violence and gore. The film has back-to-back fight scenes that cover the entire screen in a singular shade of red. The movie goes on to justify all the wrongs done by the “alpha” just because he took that step for his father.
Be it infidelity, countless murders, mental/physical/emotional abuse, all of this is forgiven because Ranvijay takes this step for his family.
Keeping the plot aside, let’s talk about Ranvijay for starters. Ranvijay is rash, brash, and loud. He has repressed trauma because of his relationship with his father. This trauma has made him take the violent route where he engages in mindless killing. He finds it okay to cheat on his wife because he wants to confirm if the other woman is a mole. He sleeps with her for a week at a stretch, while his wife has no clue about it. His cousins are in on it and they don’t tell him that this is wrong either. Add to it, he develops a soft spot for her once he knows that the woman is in love with him; while he has a wife and two kids. He calls himself the only man in the house who will protect his mother and his two sisters in the absence of his father. As if the women need a man who is running on unbalanced hormones to fend for them.
The man tells his sister to not drink whiskey but rather wine. He tells his sister not to put up with abuse while he goes on to emotionally manipulate them. He points a gun at a woman’s belly who is in labour because he wants to find the man who killed his father’s body double. He makes inappropriate sexual comments as and when he pleases. Frankly, this list can go on and on.
While I was watching Animal, the movie made me afraid of every man in the theatre who was hooting, howling, and cheering for every violent action Ranbir’s character took. People found it okay to cheer for every act just because it was done for “a reason”. On one hand, I am willing to view the movie as just a piece of art and think that Ranbir Kapoor’s acting deserves a separate article of its own. However, at the same time, I am painfully aware of the fact that a movie like this will have its implications. We have men like Ranvijay around us and the film will make them even more comfortable.
This reminded me how much I miss the lover boy type of men in romantic comedies.
The last rom-com I saw was Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani. The movie cannot be classified as a rom-com thanks to the family drama it has, but it comes quite close to the genre. We had a masculine Rocky Randhawa who had flawed notions about everything around him. However, he was willing to change and mend his ways. The character challenged the notions of masculinity and gave us a man who we all found endearing.
Rocky tells his girlfriend to stop getting riled up because he is fragile. This line which has seeped into our pop culture takes a refreshing attitude to talk about men’s emotions. Rocky loves his family as much as Ranvijay does but the way the movie tackled that is different. Just like Ranvijay, even Rocky has daddy issues but his chosen path is not of violence.
Talking about rom-coms, another character that comes to my mind is Aditya from Jab We Met. He is the soft-spoken shy man who is emotionally intelligent. He is a green flag. He has his flaws like any other person, but he knows how to face them healthily. When he met Geet, he had his battles to fight. His girlfriend married someone else, his business was not doing well, and he is at a critical juncture in his life. Despite all of this, he learns to let go. Along with Geet, even Aditya has a journey of growth.
The rom-coms show us men who are real and flawed and that’s the beauty of it. No one is perfect but there is always room for growth to become a better version of yourself.
Hypermasculine movies like Animal makes me realize how much we need these rom-com men more than ever and it’s time filmmakers explore this genre just like they did in 2010.