It seems like Ranbir Kapoor has missed the mark in defending Animal while addressing toxic masculinity in the film.
After the release of Kabir Singh (2019), the director Sandeep Reddy Vanga and Shahid Kapoor, who played the titular character, went on a defending spree for a few years. More so, even Vijay Deverakonda, who played Arjun Reddy in the original film, did so. So, it was a known fact that Animal, which also became one of the biggest blockbusters in Bollywood, would also have its team get into defensive mode. Vanga started immediately after the release, slamming critics left, right, and centre for their opinions, as well as several film personalities such as Javed Akhtar. Now, almost two months after the release of Animal, the leading star, Ranbir, has defended the film in the most obnoxious way.
In a recent interview conducted by comedian-actor Anubhav Singh Bassi for Netflix India, RK discussed how the film sparked a "healthy conversation" on toxic masculinity. Ummm, we wonder how! The actor is heard saying, "There is also a very healthy conversation that has started about toxic masculinity, which is a great thing because, at least, cinema starts a conversation. If something is wrong, if you don’t show that it is wrong, and unless conversation starts in society, we will never realise it."
It does come as a surprise that Ranbir has defended Animal in such a way that the effect is exactly opposite of what he said. The film, with a juvenile script, showed that the family lived in some sort of lawless land where people were slaughtering each other with no remorse. Anil Kapoor's character as Ranbir's onscreen father handles the situation of the crimes he has committed, but the three-hour and 21-minute-long film provides no proof.
Moreover, the leading actor also added that they need to have empathy for the characters they are playing. Ranbir said, "So, these characters that we are portraying are characters. So, it's very important that, as actors, we have empathy for them because we need to play them. But as an audience, you should decide that something is wrong. You can make a film about a bad person. And it should be made, because if you don't make a film about them, society will never improve itself."
Well, the audience, especially his fans, did decide to slam people who found the film offensive, behaving exactly like how his character behaves throughout the film. He talks about being an alpha male and also keeps on talking about female anatomy, as he is some kind of gynaecologist. Well, I thought they were some business family, and Vanga's Kabir Singh and Arjun Reddy had the leading character play the role of a surgeon. How did this mix-up happen, and he thought he would just get away with it easily?
RK did not stop; he also said that the characters in the film got what they deserved. Is that what you consider redemption? From making a man suffer from hearing impairment to killing a speech-impaired villain and discovering that his father, whom he turned into a criminal for, has only four months to live?
Despite its mention of the word "papa" 196 times with no relevance to the plot, Animal is deceptive, to say the least, in its exploration of the tumultuous relationship between a father and a son.
Soon after Animal's release, social media sparked a discourse on how Shah Rukh Khan's earlier films, where he portrayed the anti-hero, also allowed him to escape the consequences of his actions. I would still like to know from those people: how? The ultimate result he faces in the film, despite being the lead character, is death; moreover, there are protectors around the characters he has been attacking. In Anjaam, when he makes Madhuri Dixit's character suffer, she yields the power herself to make him face the dog's death. Sunny Deol, who plays Juhi Chawla's husband in Darr, goes to great lengths to ensure that SRK's character, a stalker suffering from mental illness, faces the consequences of his actions.
The characters getting what they deserved is exactly what was meant.
However, as Animal raked in more than Rs. 500 crore at the box office, the film turned out to be a blockbuster, and it minted a lot of money, but healthy conversation, "404 Error"! But Ranbir doesn't feel so. He added, "But when a film works, everything works, and when a film doesn't work, nothing works. No matter how well you have acted, nothing works; you're useless."
At the end of the day, that's all that matters, right? In addition, there is a sequel coming up, titled Animal Park. Furthermore, RK's character escalates toxic masculinity to the next level by portraying a merciless butcher, in contrast to the OG Ranvijay, who is still idolised as a "superstar" by his son!
In case you don't know, during the promotions of Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar, in a media group interview, I got the opportunity to ask the actor about something he doesn't want to do at this stage of his career. To which the actor stated, "No, as an actor, I'm ready to do anything. I'm a responsible artist; I don't want to influence society in a bad way. I try to do characters that inspire people; sometimes you do characters that are not meant to inspire but are just for entertainment purposes, and those shouldn't be taken too seriously."
He also shared, "I remember when Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani was released, and people really loved that film. But today, there is a certain conversation that says he is a toxic character. Now I'm not doing Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani to spread that toxic masculinity; I was playing a part. So as an actor, I've got enough empathy for that character to play that part. But I am not that person. I am not the character I play, so that is an understanding I have. But there is nothing that I wouldn't want to do. So I get it, and it's fine. Everyone has their own reaction to how they see things."
I understand that he is not the character he plays, and time and again, the actor has proven it, even if he didn't have to. However, his character in Animal definitely hasn't inspired people, and sadly, people are taking it too seriously, not as a conversation starter but as something that is justifiable.
I am a fan of Ranbir Kapoor's work, but definitely not what Vanga has made for the screen in Animal!