Synopsis – 8 years after Rakesh Mahadkar reigned terror on Mumbai, another serial killer has taken birth. More brutal and more dangerous but one that uses the same cover, the Smiley Mask. Ek Villain Returns is the story of two men in one sided love. The paths they choose to fulfill their love stories decide who the Hero is and who is the Villain.
My Take – With a long list of guilty pleasure casual watch films like Zeher (2005), Kalyug (2005), Awarapan (2007), Raaz: The Mystery Continues (2009), Murder 2 (2011), Aashiqui 2 (2013) and Malang (2020) attached to his directorial title, there is no denying that Mohit Suri is brand in himself.
In a similar vein to his trademark style, eight years ago saw the release Ek Villain (2014), a tone down remake of the South Korean serial killer thriller I Saw the Devil (2010), which despite its flaws found massive commercial success and received immense praise for its music and Riteish Deshmukh‘s performance.
Now returning to the same universe in the form of a spiritual successor, director Suri, who co-wrote the story with Aseem Arora, a strange world where villains and misogyny thrive, and replenishes it with a good looking cast, massy dialogues, action, romantic songs and loaded glamour. All in order to replicate its predecessor’s success. But while its platter is full of commercial value, it doesn’t measure up to its first installment’s entertainment value.
Sure, it is a decent watch and keeps you hooked throughout, dishing out the expected twists and turns suitable for a psychological action-thriller, but in comparison the film doesn’t make you emotionally cheer for any of the characters or the story, ultimately faltering to its formulaic treatment. Even the staple excellent music from Mohit Suri films, present even terrible films like Hamari Adhuri Kahani (2015) and Half Girlfriend (2017), is absent here.
Set eight years after Rakesh Mahadkar (Riteish Deshmukh) spread terror through his spine-chilling killings, the story follows Gautam Mehra (Arjun Kapoor), a hot-headed brat son of a rich father, who has a habit of making things go his way, remaining unaffected by the damages he causes along the way, provided he wins in the end. His attention falls on Aarvi Malhotra (Tara Sutaria), an emerging singer who finds instant success by making a viral music video on one of Gautam’s transgressions.
While Gautam successfully plots Aarvi’s rise on the stage, makes her fall in love with him, and dumps her unceremoniously, his actual troubles begin when Aarvi is attacked by a smiley masked killer on video and goes missing. Leaving Gautam to become the main suspect, especially in the eyes of investigating Officer Aditya Rathore (Shaad Randhawa).
However, ACP V. K. Ganesan (J. D. Chakravarthy) is unconvinced. Believing Aarvi’s attack to be connected to a serial killer’s pattern who has been wreaking havoc in the city for some time. His list of suspects include Bhairav Purohit (John Abraham), an introvert taxi driver cum zoo staffer, who has is in love with Rasika Mapuskar (Disha Patani), a salesgirl at a posh store. Hereby setting the stage for plenty of drama and action.
With a simple story, the film takes almost the entire of the first half to establish the characters, the back stories, their contrast, and the unrequited love between the two couples, leaving with enough build up to keep us excited for some interesting twists in the second half. You have to credit director Mohit Suri for creating interesting opening sequences for the four leads. With the constant back and forth movement between narratives and timelines adding an edginess to the screenplay.
However, the second half lacks the required punch to deliver and become a tauter and gripping romantic thriller. While adding pace and spice to the screenplay and dialogues, director Suri and co-writer Aseem Arora have missed on adding more heft to all the central characters, and throw in plot twists to cover up anything that would add any new shade to the character’s motives and relationships. But then, if you are an avid watcher of murder mysteries and thrillers, you will be able to smell the twist from a mile.
While some dialogues have a mass appeal, there are a few which are laughable. Even though the film emphasizes on unrequited love as the prime murder motive and revenge, it does it so poorly by building on fear and erotica that it is almost bizarre. Here, the film attempts to show that men cannot accept rejection and they’d rather support a misogynistic serial killer instead of doing the right thing, like moving on. It want to say that men will craft the most insane fantasies, which have the ability to warp their perception of reality instead of healing.
It glorifies the angst of jilted one-sided love throughout the film and only gives a mild sermon on how the feeling of love can be enough to keep one afloat even if it is not reciprocated. There’s a better film somewhere inside Mohit Suri and Aseem Arrora’s script. Only if it was executed with more heft. Another disappointments coming from the sequel is the lack of memorable songs. Unlike its predecessor which had a bunch of chart buster songs that are remembered even today, this one just manages to scratch the surface with the revamped version of ‘Galliyan’.
In terms of performances, John Abraham could have done much better with his layered character and gets to shine only in the final act of the film. Arjun Kapoor shows a sincere improvement, at least in comparison to his last few releases, and but ends up limited due to the superficial writing. Disha Patani looks like a seductress, but her performance of a complex character is not up to the mark even though the effort is there. Tara Sutaria also shows improvement, in comparison to her turn in Heropanti 2, but her character is not fleshed out enough to do much to elevate the film.
In supporting roles, J. D. Chakravarthy and Shaad Randhawa are consistent, but don’t get much to contribute. Surprisingly the film has a post credit scene, which brings in an exciting cameo, certainly a highlight of the film and the future of the franchise. On the whole, ‘Ek Villain Returns’ is a watchable romantic thriller letdown by its unemotional investment and chaotic storytelling.
Directed – Mohit Suri
Rated – PG15
Run Time – 129 minutes