I will always remember 2023 as the year of hyper-masculinity. Or at least, this is what I think now, as I sit to process the rampage that was Animal. When a film is thought of and made with the idea to piss off a certain group, there’s not a lot of morality you can expect from it. Ethics are lost when the intent is to hurt people. However, even when Mr Reddy Vanga had challenged critics to wait for the film, after Kabir Singh hurt people’s sentiments, I held hope. I wanted to be the bigger person, who’d give the film a chance with an open mind – to make some (any) sense of it. As I sit to write this, I’m hurt, scared, concerned and mostly terrorized by what the human form is capable of.
I have tried and failed at telling people how a misogynistic film adds to the problem. I have also tried and failed at explaining people the simple difference between glorifying something that’s wrong, and just showing it as a mirror to the society. The fact that I’m still trying, despite being trolled and bullied for my opinion, shows how strongly I believe in it – and how scary it must be. So, with all due respect, Mr Sandeep Reddy Vanga, your film shouldn’t exist.
You think anger deserves romanticization. How would you like it if we take inspiration from you? Since “pseudos” (your words) are so against your idea of filmmaking, should we also show you that with rage that we contain? The same kind of rage that you normalized with Animal – with expression in the form of destruction, because clearly, THAT is your language. In times of frustration, one thinks that maybe that’s how you will finally listen. How unfortunate.
You think Animal is the cinematic equivalent to a middle-finger. You also think it’s cool. I wouldn’t tell you that you’re wrong, because l don’t expect responsibility from you, as you don’t care for it. I see your middle-finger and raise you logic. The fact that with all the resources and skills that you do possess, you felt the need to create a film out of vengeance. It was your larger-than-life project to piss off the “pseudos.” That’s vile for an artist – to not only diss critique, but to go to this length because his ego couldn’t take it. If you keep trying to prove a point with each film that you create, you will end up with no perspective. Which, well, is already very narrow, to begin with. Take criticism. Open your mind, like we are constantly trying around you.
The film, it’s cast and creators also think that they’re doing something revolutionary. You keep bragging that it’s bold of you to show blood lust and slaughter on-screen, but that’s the spineless thing to do. A brave film wouldn’t orchestrate hate in an already hateful nation. A brave film would go the extra mile to sit people down and tell them they’re wrong – not play into their idea of cinema to mint money. In a scene, Ranbir Kapoor’s character abuses his wife by fiddling with her bra strap like a rubber band, to physically hurt her because he is pissed. But oh, he puts an ointment later. Sandeep Reddy Vanga would say that all of this holds meaning in a relationship. Ranbir Kapoor had said in an interview that people who get easily triggered shouldn’t watch the film. So, they are telling us, that WE are the problem – not the man who romanticizes abuse, not the man who performs it.
I can go on and on about scenes that are purely sexist, but that wouldn’t make a difference. There’s this thing that people say often: “Deewar mein sar maarna.” Trying to convince people that glorification is wrong is exactly that. Hence, I shall not do that – I think I’m smarter than that. I would tell you this, instead. When you thought that you scared us with the last frame of the film, you were just seeking validation. Or else, you wouldn’t be hell bent on justifying what you did. You have your fans, they are celebrating you – why care for the people who don’t like your work? Isn’t that too much effort? So, clearly, you want us to say that you did good – at the end of the day, you’re also an artist. Women who are offended are still bringing logic to the table. You, on the other hand, have only rage – a lot of it. So that last frame? That is YOUR temper tantrum, because you are trying so hard when we do not care for a person who’s plain misogynistic.
My issue is purely with the director – who, even if he’s listening, he wouldn’t. But here I am, still. You also said in an interview that while you named your son Arjun, you wouldn’t want him to turn out like the character. You understand that he’s not the right person to be around – and somehow, you still tried to feed the narrative that it’s normal to be like him in a relationship. So, when you wouldn’t be comfortable with someone so scary, why are you expecting us to be? And please, don’t tell me that films don’t have an impact on people.
I remember watching 83 in theatres, and despite having followed the match when it happened, people were moved. They knew what was going to happen, and somehow the reaction didn’t fade away. It was like watching a live match. We all left with happy hearts. When Barbie released this year – the film that your fans called ‘anti-men’, women actually felt like they healed from years of trauma that patriarchy has managed to induce.
Your film has the impact that makes people want to ‘die for it’ or at least ‘kill for it’, because again, that’s clearly normal in this world. We also have the courage to defend our opinions when we support a murderer being orchestrated on-screen, but we can’t call out war. THIS impact is not just here out of the blue, it has been instilled with Animal, and films that are alike.
People would still expect me to talk about the film cinematically, and despite everything, I’ll do that too, Mr Vanga. The film tries so hard to show the middle finger that it forgets that it’s still ‘art’, that there’s a story to tell. In wanting to be offensive, it brings up so many problematic plot points that they can’t all be dealt with properly – not even in the three hours, twenty minutes. Everything loses sense because of the creator’s constant desperation to show visuals of blood lust. There are films that also do that, but there’s such a thing as trying too hard. If the creators wouldn’t have been so busy trying to offend people, they would’ve paid attention to the technicalities.
The direction loses perspective (if there was) when there’s no arc for the main character in the second half. It lacks crescendos, by just constantly being a flat rampage – with only gun noises to add to the shock, instead of the plot. The songs and the BGM are the only things that can be enjoyed. Then again, put a man with a gun, trying to justify mass brutality, and the beauty of the music goes away.
My point is, the script, the story and the dialogues are just as important when it comes to technicalities in a film. If those are problematic, I do not have to make sense of the rest of it, but I still did – because unlike you, Sandeep Reddy Vanga, I understand the role of opinions. Sure, it’s a choice to watch the film. Sure, it’s important to explore genres, and show exactly what happens in the world. All I’m saying is, do not justify it – do not glorify it – and do not even try to romanticise a criminal who’s just a terrible human being.
You know it’s messed up when you can’t call a film wrong for being wrong. If the director thinks that he didn’t make all of this happen – that he didn’t provoke all the hate that women get for calling out his films, then there’s no point. If we think of it, like the film, there is, in fact, no point.