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Mohanlal, Kartik  Aaryan In  2 OTT The Actors Outshine The Material



Mohanlal in Villain(Malayalam, MX Player)

Villain(Malayalam, MX Player) The thing about Mohanlal is , he sees things that others can’t. And he makes  us see things that other actors cannot.Last year in the very watchable thriller  Oppam he played a blind man whose powers of perception far outstripped those blessed with eyesight. Since Oppam, Mohanlal has done 5 other films. I missed  4 of them. But I am glad to catch up with the amazingly prolific and versatile actor in this thriller with balls and  heart where he is a cop on the verge  of  retirement yanked back to duty after  a series  of  murders rocks the city.

This  is  not a novel premise to  work a thriller around. Dozens  of Hollywood suspense thrillers  have its cop-protagonist reluctantly getting into the investigative mode just when they would like nothing better than to put up their feet in their livingrooms with a bowl of popcorn and watch  DVDs of old Clint Eastwood or Mohanlal flicks, depending which way  your taste swings. Villain works fine as long as  it doesn’t begin to lean on Hollywood prototypes. The indigenous strain is  well woven into the thriller.

There is  an element of inextinguishable anxiety in Mohanlal’s recent performances, a man calm on the surface  only because   the other option is so terrible  it could induce a catastrophic emotional geostorm. Villain  builds on Mohanlal’s power to express rage and grief without letting go.This time he plays his cat-and-mouse game  on  a sleek chessboard where the pieces are laid out neatly, a  little  too neatly , with all the plot points and emotional tropes  indicated to us from afar.We really don’t need to strain  our intellect or tap into our literary resources, although Shakespeare  is casually brought up in  a conversation.

For  company Mohanlal has Vishal Krishna, a remarkably engaging and intelligent actor who  makes the bumpersticker wisdom of his rhetorical dialogues sound like lines borrowed from the latest episodes  of Everybody Loves Raymond. I am  not too sure  if everybody would love Vishal Krishna’s Shaktivel, a smooth-talking  doctor, and a  portrait of moral  ambivalence who stores some surprise that he lets out in the later  portions of  the plot.

This is  strong part for  a co-star in  Mohanlal film and Vishal makes  the  best of it.

Villain  has  a certain grip to its narrative. Although its thrusts at profundity amidst the bouts of  homicidal assault are  to be taken with a pinch of salt, it  nonetheless exudes a distant sophistication  in its storytelling.

Guest In London(Amazon Prime):  First things first. The most welcome thing about this tragic-comedy about unwelcome guests is the  comic timing  of  Paresh Rawal  and Kartik

Paresh and the neglected Tanve Azmi put in spirited sometimes boisterous  , sometimes subdued  but never  uneven performance as an over-friendly  Punjabi couple who insist on inflicting their scorching overbearing warmth on  a young couple with commitment issues in London, played by a superbly wide-eyed   Kartik Aryan and Kriti Kharbanda(who  needs to be seen more often ), who have no choice but to bear with the unwanted guests’ intrusive presence in their home and with his…errrr,farting.

For some strange reason the script,otherwise devilishly deft in the way it blends bacchanalia and backchat with somewhat serious issues , is obsessed with flatulence. Rawal’s character speaks about and indulges in it constantly and there is a lengthy mushaira session over whiskey and pakodas   where the theme is….paad(fart).

This fetish for flatulence destroys much of the film’s otherwise well-intended potshots at contemporary relationships which tend to be weighed down by the stress of staying afloat. There is a touching interlude where the oldest neighbour(the veteran Vishwa Mohan Badola)  in suburban London passes away and his  sons have no time for his funeral times.

Or when Kartik’s slimy boss hits on a hapless Chinese employee , Paresh intervenes firmly .It’s a sequence done with conviction, though tiresomely lengthy and repetitive.

Yup, Rawal  knows how to hold a  scene together even if it(the scene) overstays its welcome.And Kartik and Kriti stand up well to his histrionic binging.  On the other hand, the ever-dependable Sanjai Mishra is curiously out of sorts as a Pakistani neighbour. There are some cringe-worthy racist jibes about skin colour, Indo-Pak relations and Chinese dominion and a distastefully long and painful sequence involving a mistaken case of infant abuse that could have been avoided.

But there is more to like than hate in the awfully  titled Guest In London(who would want to a comedy with such an insipid title?). Let me tell you, it’s not easy to generate sustained laughter without offending any individual or community. Writer-director Ashwini Dheer succeeds in doing so to a large extent.There are frequent flings with  farce in the plot that yield some solid laughs.

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