All good sequels have enough of the original to give us a sense of continuity but create enough difference to be able to stand on their own. Filmmaker Mohit Suri attempts to do it with Ek Villain Returns, a sequel to the 2014 sleeper hit Ek Villain, but fails miserably. Here’s a film which is a perfect example of how Bollywood struggles with creating a plot in which every single thread counts.
Ek Villain Returns kicks in only after the interval, and then it becomes the film it should have been from the get-go. The first half is a waste, even if it tries hard to get the audience invested into the characters who say dialogues which are straight out of ’80s Bollywood.
Apart from being eye-candy, Aarvi (Tara Sutaria) is an upcoming singer, wanting to become famous and become a superstar singer. Gautam Mehra (Arjun Kapoor), a rich spoilt brat, falls for Aarvi and helps in achieving her goal. But wait, has he really fallen in love? At the same time there are a series of murders of young girls who have one-sided lovers, done by an unknown person who wants to become the messiah of boys who have lost in love.
On the other hand, we have Bhairav (John Abraham), a cab driver who falls for Rasika (Disha Patani), a sales girl working in a departmental store. The stories of the four protagonists get intertwined with some interesting twists and plots. So now, it is left up to the audience to decide ki kaun hero aur kaun villain.
Suri is interested in themes of revenge, redemption, and especially in the notion of masculinity. The filmmaker surely has a gift for vivid characterisation, even if some things are underlined a tad too much. He also does a good job with weaving high-octane moments around his characters. But Ek Villain Returns has little room for complexity so this idea is ultimately squandered.
The tone becomes inconsistent. The film’s swinging between drama and melodrama is its weakness. The first film had some interesting songs, especially ‘Teri Galliyan,’ and the song has a new version in the sequel, but it doesn’t really create the same impact. The rest of the songs aren’t even worth mentioning. And then there are dialogues, ‘Main hero hoon teri kahaani ka’ or ‘tu hero toh main villain.’ The four leads keep on repeating and playing games of ‘main hero, tu villain’ or ‘tu villain, main hero.’
The twists too in the film are either predictable or far-fetched. One major reveal is given away in the film’s trailer so you can see it coming from a distance. The other is what one would describe as ‘thoda zyada ho gaya.’ The climax, especially the last scene, does pack some punch, but it is, in the end, a case of too little too late.
The film leans on its cast to do what they do best. Abraham, flaunting a chest that refuses to be contained in shirts, gets multiple opportunities to flex his chiseled abs. Sutaria sportingly shows off her perfectly toned figure. Kapoor has some interesting moments but doesn’t really rise above the character. Surprisingly, it is Patani who’s having the most fun.
At 2 hours and 8 minutes, the film isn’t really long. But the absurdity and the ridiculousness in the plot just made the audience in the auditorium so bored that many didn’t even wait for the last scene to get completed and started walking to the nearest exit.
There are some moments that work, but by the end, I remember a dialogue that Abraham’s character, a cab driver keeps on repeating in the film, ‘Rating zaroor dena.’