John Abraham in a still from Ek Villain Returns. (courtesy: YouTube)
Cast: Arjun Kapoor, John Abraham, Disha Patani and Tara Sutaria
Director: Mohit Suri
Rating: 1 star (out of 5)
Terrible writing, dreadful acting and clueless storytelling, Ek Villain Returns has it all. It peddles its hokey wares with such a straight face - it can only be rivalled by John Abraham's unyielding stares - that it would be safe to conclude that director Mohit Suri believes he is delivering a cinematic essay to rival The Shining.
A sickeningly misogynistic serial killer thriller, Ek Villain Returns loses no opportunity to snuff out the possibility of common sense making its way into the film. It assembles a cast that is totally ill equipped to take us into the recesses of seared minds teetering on the edge of insanity.
The film wants to generate tension and intrigue. All it does is deliver a string of blotchy scenes that would be laughable has they not been so painfully laboured.
Ek Villain Returns is a pea-brained potboiler that potters about pointlessly trying to establish that the line separating darr (fear) and pyaar (love) - one of the actors pronounces the word, wholly inadvertently, as PR, pee-aar - is as thin as its putrid plot.
The film kicks off with shaky footage of a vicious attack by a masked marauder on a loud party in a high-rise apartment. The owner of the pad, singer Aarvi Malhotra (Tara Sutaria), goes missing.
The alarm bells begin to ring: the 'Smiley Killer' is back with a vengeance. ACP Ganesan (JD Chakravarthy), a self-styled criminal psychologist, claims he knows who is behind the mask. His colleagues in the police force are not so sure.
The film, too, gropes in the dark in spectacular fashion. It cuts back and forth between the present day and either six or three months earlier to track the parallel stories of two hunks who wander around like lost grizzly bears who have strayed into the city looking for food.
One of these guys is an industrialist's wayward son Gautam Mehra (Arjun Kapoor). He gatecrashes the wedding of his ex and makes a spectacle of himself. Aarvi, unbeknownst to the troublemaker, records the scene and posts it on social media. Gautam earns quick notoriety.
Instead of flying into a blue funk, Gautam tracks down Aarvi at a music festival and begins to hover around her with the express aim of returning the favour. He offers to help the struggling pop singer get a far more famous rival - Qiran "with a Q" - out of her way. The smiley mask comes back into play and Aarvi has her way as Qiran beats a hasty retreat, leaving the stage to her.
The other male lead, John Abraham, is Bhairav Purohit, a zookeeper, part-time cabbie and shopaholic who buys a shirt a day from salesgirl Rasika Mapuskar (Disha Patani). Stalking is clearly the favourite pastime of the two men vying for the titular tag in Ek Villain Returns.
Boorish behaviour and the kind of love that smothers the receiver are held up as something worth emulating. Just as bad, a psychopathic killer on the prowl is given a halo.
Ek Villain Returns reduces the two heroines to a pair of silly sirens who spout lines so utterly dippy that they could as well be packed off to the zoo where one of the heroes (0r villains, who knows what this guy wants to be) works. That is how much respect the screenplay accords to the girls.
Yes, one of them is allowed a couple of minutes to hold forth on the agony of not being accepted by her biological father. While this lady is given to bouts of self-pity (which, of course, is much better than being pushed around by men who know no better), the other one is infinitely more aggressive.
Maar do yaa mar jao, she says to her taciturn boyfriend and then proceeds to show him exactly how to go about it. And one thing that she gets absolutely right is her repeated jibe at her man - murkh aahes (you are a fool)!.
The film is worse because it is problematic in more ways than a good old murkh can ever be. We are told that the serial killer has done as many as 15 young women to death, but Ek Villain Returns is averse to giving the victims (barring one) faces, lives and relatable stories that could create any room for arousal of some sympathy for their pitiable fate. For the writers of this film, the toll is only a number.
The film goes to the other extreme and blames the women for how they have ended up. The killer, we learn, targets girls who do not reciprocate the love that is showered on them by men who want to force their way into their lives without so much as a by-your-leave. Such girls deserve death, a violent one at that, the film would have us believe.
Ek Villain Returns- a sequel to a film made eight years ago - would be dismissed as a confused, yawn-inducing concoction but for the hammer blows that it rains on our sanity. Not one word it utters, nor one scene that it crafts, makes any sense. It perpetuates dangerous notions about love and its repercussions.
Will the film be remembered for anything at all? Yes, there is one thing that it offers without scrimping - cringeworthy performances. It is doubtful that any recent Bollywood film has crammed so much consistently bad acting into a span of two hours.
Arjun Kapoor and John Abraham compete for more than just screen time. They outdo each other in matching the vacuity of the film with performances that are defiantly stuck in a lackadaisical loop.
As for Tara Sutaria and Disha Patani, the less said the better. The film ensures that nothing that they get to do on the screen takes the focus away from what they are here for - their pretty faces and hot bods. Anything more would have required thoughtful writing and that is asking for too much.
Ek Villain has returned. It's time to run for cover.
Arjun Kapoor, John Abraham, Disha Patani and Tara Sutaria