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Unraveling the Complexities of 'Animal' and Exploring Alternatives in Cinematic Empowerment

Sandeep Vanga's film Animal may have had great cinematography, action sequences, and acting, but it fell short in terms of a compelling storyline and proficient writing skills. Despite Ranbir Kapoor delivering a performance befitting the title, the character's motivations were not convincingly portrayed.


The narrative of Animal revolves around Vijay, portrayed by Ranbir Kapoor, the sole heir of a wealthy family led by his father, Balbir Singh (Anil Kapoor). The film traces Vijay's journey from childhood to adulthood, unraveling a cycle of violence driven by his quest for love and approval from his father. While the film received acclaim for its aesthetic cinematography, creating a dark and immersive atmosphere, this technical brilliance could not compensate for the lack of substance and an excessive focus on style over substance.


Ranbir Kapoor's character lacked a sufficiently developed origin story, making it challenging to accept that an inattentive father could lead to such an extreme obsession resulting in a killing spree. The script appeared disjointed, comprising scenes that failed to cohesively contribute to the overall narrative. Attempts at edgy humor, centered around sex and genitals, fell flat, contributing little to the film's depth.


The film's problematic aspects extend to its celebration of a misogynistic protagonist. Vijay is portrayed as deeply flawed yet aspirational, with a background score that glorifies his acts of violence and hypermasculinity. The film irresponsibly glorifies misogyny and fails to offer a compelling plot. The character dynamics, especially the relationship between Vijay and his wife (played by Rashmika Mandanna), lack depth, with the female character serving as a mere addition to Kapoor's persona.


Critics, including Anupama Chopra, expressed discomfort with the film's regressive elements. While Animal marks a departure from conventional Bollywood storytelling, showcasing an experimental narrative, its regressive elements pose a risk to on-screen representation and storytelling progress.


Despite these concerns, box office data from the trade analysis platform Sacnilk reveals substantial earnings for Animal, grossing Rs 356 crore within three days, including Rs 240.50 crore from the domestic market and Rs 115.50 crore from overseas markets. This financial success highlights the ongoing debate within the industry regarding the balance between experimental narratives and the potential impact on societal norms and values.


Debates sparked by the film


The film has sparked an intense debate regarding the role of films in influencing society. Users on the internet are divided about their feelings towards entertainment flicks like Animal. Some seem to believe that a film can be viewed as a standalone entertainment while not being influenced by it while others point out that having an A-list actor who is pretty much hailed as a star and is aspirational to the common public playing the role of a glorified misogynistic man is problematic.


There has been a video of the actor, Aamir Khan’s old interview being re-circulated on social media where he talks about lousy filmmakers resorting to sex and violence to make up for their lack of creative storytelling. There have been other arguments made against the film Animal where critics of the film suggest that in a country like India, where the cinema-going audience is largely unsophisticated and unversed in the nuances of creative art is more vulnerable to being influenced by films that irresponsibly celebrate misogyny and violence. 


Furthermore, it has also been suggested by critics that with an abysmally high number of domestic violence and sexual assault abuses being witnessed in the country, it is highly insensitive on the part of the filmmaker to portray a problematic hero without any real repercussions. In the film, Vijay at the end, walks away with his misogyny and viciousness without any observable character development at all. 


While it is important to note that films like Animal are deeply flawed and irresponsible, it is, however, erroneous to wish for a ban on the film altogether. There have been calls by some viewers of the film to censor it, which has led to another debate regarding the question of freedom of expression and creativity. Censorship or prohibition of the release of such films would set a dangerous precedent whereby a single authoritarian ideology could take precedence and dismiss the space for dissent and opposing views altogether.


An Alternate Spectacle


In contrast to Animal, films like Barbie, Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani and Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour Movie were seen as a step in the right direction. Barbie and Swift's Eras Tour Movie exemplify a powerful reclaiming of space by women in realms traditionally unseen, both on and off the screen. Off the screen with an audience that was predominantly female, a phenomenon rare in Indian theatres. These endeavors represent an alternative form of spectacle, one that is transgressive and invigorating. Barbie and Swift, in their respective fields, empower marginalized genders by providing platforms for renewed perspectives and attitudes. The Eras Tour movie, along with the broader cultural movement it signifies, presents an unparalleled opportunity for Indian cinema to reevaluate its approach to female representation.


 


Despite persistent challenges, such as the overshadowing of female stars and issues related to unequal pay, the enthusiasm surrounding Swift's movie reflects a growing demand for change. Swift's ability to command a diverse and inclusive audience challenges the entrenched norms of male-dominated fandoms. The communal atmosphere during screenings not only creates a sense of unity but also dismantles traditional barriers that have confined women to passive roles within the cinematic sphere, both as entertainers and viewers. These films have broken the status quo where the lead actor and the audience have predominantly been male. This shift signals a transformative moment in the industry, urging a reexamination of gender dynamics and fostering a more inclusive cinematic landscape.


Edited by Victoria Muzio


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