There comes a time when an actor is offered a role which will push him out of his comfort zone and force him to adapt to an environment, one which he is not very familiar with. At times like these, the actor’s experience plays a vital role in combating the issue, helping him ease his path as he struggles to cope with surroundings that appear alien to him. Very few rise upto the challenge, and deliver a performance that will live long in the memory of the viewers, whilst the rest struggle to come to terms with the demands of the role, which more often than not, leads either to a grossly undercooked performance or incessant hamming.
Sadly, for Siddharth Malhotra, he happens to fall into the latter category. Barely two films old, this one came too soon.
Ek Villain charts the story of Aisha(Shraddha Kapoor), a girl so sprightly and so happy, she’d give candy floss an insecurity complex, and Guru(Siddharth Malhotra), a man set out to banish the demons of his past by starting afresh. Aisha is suffering from a terminal disease and goes about helping those that share the same fate as her, whilst Guru goes about throwing people into fires in front of their mothers, acting on the orders of his boss(Remo). The two meet, and after a series of jokes that would make the writers of Humshakals cringe, fall for each other in true Bollywood style. Everything seems fine and dandy until one fateful day Aisha tells off a local phone maintenance guy(Riteish Deshmukh) for doing a shoddy job of fixing the wires around her house, and things take a dramatic turn. Guru swears revenge and thus begins a game of cat and mouse between the two.
Based on Kim Ji-Woon’s psychological thriller, I Saw The Devil, Ek Villain suffers from a serious lack of consistency and intensity. While the former could in no way be remade scene to scene in this country(The Censorboard would choke on their food), the crux of the film that made it such a pleasure to watch is missing from Director Mohit Suri’s venture. This is essentially a tale of revenge between two characters that flit between playing the protagonist and the antagonist by committing deeds that are sinister and borderline inhuman, leaving the audience with no clear favorite to root for until the climax. Ek Villain attempts the same formula but by replacing the excessive violence with more characters each having a back story of their own, ultimately leading to a case of too many cooks spoil the broth. That being said, Ek Villain is not unwatchable. The film gets off to a stuttering start, manages to find it’s feet just before the interval and ten minutes into the second half, stumbles again. The director’s attempt to humanize Riteish Deshmukh’s character as a man, who burdened by the demands of his over-bearing wife(Aamna Sharif), physically assaults and kills other women to vent out his frustration, because he can’t bring himself to do the same to her due to the unconditonal love that he has for her doesn’t really work. You neither sympathize with him nor do you condone his actions leaving you with a dilemma you’d rather not have.
It’s refreshing to see Deshmukh in a role that caters more to his talent rather than just having him dress up in drag and crack homophobic jokes all the time. He does his best to do justice to a character, who’s development has been sacrificed to accommodate the love story arc between Aisha and Guru. Deshmukh stands head and shoulders above the rest of the cast and delivers a performance worth noting. He’s probably the best thing about the film, even though he’s accompanied by a track shamelessly lifted off the Dexter TV Series. To compare him to Choi Min-Sik would be criminal as there is a significant difference between the two roles, but Deshmukh holds his own. Siddharth Malhotra resembles a block of wood and his general lack of facial expressions, particularly in scenes that require him to emote, don’t really help his cause. Maybe four or five films down the line, he’d be ready for a role of this magnitude but as of now he just doesn’t suit the part. Shraddha Kapoor manages to take an annoying character and makes her far more annoying than she was planned to be. So credit where it’s due. The two leads have absolutely no chemistry, which is disheartening considering their performances with the respective leads in their previous films contributed to it’s success. The rest of the cast overact to the best of their abilities with honorable mentions going out to Remo Fernandes and Kamaal R Khan. The former’s dialogue delivery is hilariously bad, whilst the latter delivers a performance that goes to show why he hasn’t worked in the last six years. His infamous “2 Rs Ppl” quip also finds a place in the film, as he goes around justifying the right of a middle class man to vent out his frustration on his significant other. The role played so delightfully by Choi Moo-sung in the original, is converted into a caricature by Mr KRK, turning him from a criminally deranged psychopath, to a complete buffoon.
That being said, Ek Villain is not a bad film. It could’ve been so much better had it not been for Milap Zaveri’s inability to construct a scene without leaving sizeable holes in them as well or if better performances were extracted from the lead pair. It’s worth watching but due to the absence of the emotional connect that it tries so hard to establish, don’t expect it to stay with you, once the credits start rolling and the lights come on.
P.S: There is a lovely single tracking shot that leads from a pier onto a boat in the film that is extremely well done. A hat tip to the director on that occasion for having the balls to try something different.
Rating: 2 and a half.