Yash Raj Films’ Mardaani (A) is the story of a strong and principled lady police inspector who takes on the people involved in sex trafficking. Shivani Shivaji Roy (Rani Mukerji) is a very able police officer, living with her husband, Dr. Bikram Roy (Jisshu U. Sengupta), and niece, Meera (Avneet Kaur). She is fearless and goes about her work with sincerity and diligence. She has adopted a roadside girl, Pyari (Priyanka Sharma), whom she had saved from being sold by her unscrupulous uncle. Pyari lives in a shelter home and often meets Shivani and Meera. Pyari is very excited about her birthday which is due very soon. Even as Meera has made preparations to celebrate Pyari’s birthday, Pyari goes missing from her shelter home. A troubled Shivani investigates and soon realises that Pyari has been sold in the flesh trade.
Shivani now takes it upon herself to reach to the depth of this sex trafficking racket. The path, obviously, is not easy and is laden with dangers. The first ray of hope comes with the arrest of Sunny Katiyal (Anant Sharma) but he is not of much help. A phone call from an unknown person convinces Shivani that the racket is huge. However, there is not much headway. As the drama progresses, Shivani comes to Delhi and, with the help of sub-inspector Sodhi (Mikhail Yawalkar) manages to unearth more facts. She reaches Vakil (Anil George), a key person in the sex trafficking business. Just as Shivani and her team are about to arrest Vakil, he kills himself. Shivani must now reach the unidentified caller but how will she do so? After all, she doesn’t even have his name. Shivani gets lucky when she learns that Vakil had a paramour, Minoo Rastogi (Mona Ambegaonkar). She reaches Minoo’s house and realises something of immense help to her mission but before she can act on that information, she is drugged by Minoo Rastogi.
Does Shivani succeed in arresting the criminals behind the sex trafficking racket? Does she meet the unidentified caller who is another key player in the racket? Who is he and how is he related to the deceased Vakil? Does Shivani meet Pyari ever? Has Pyari been initiated into the flesh trade?
Gopi Puthran’s script, based on a concept and story by Hussain Zaidi and Vibha Singh, is quite weak. The issue of sex trafficking, rape, kidnapping of young girls etc. is so commonly understood that it shouldn’t have been a problem to connect with the audience. However, the script is so half-baked and so predictable that the viewer simply doesn’t feel for the female protagonist’s fight. Worse still, Gopi Puthran is not even able to evoke sympathy in the audience’s hearts for the girls who are being smuggled and sold in the flesh market or initiated into the flesh trade. The writer has tried to present Shivani and her team as normal human beings who, alongside doing their strenuous jobs, lead normal lives like ordinary citizens but all that looks like it is done for effect. In fact, so much footage is given to Shivani’s daily chores in her house and to her behaving normally even while on duty that it often shifts the focus from the more important issue to the unimportant tasks. What was of utmost importance in a film of this kind was to evoke audience sympathy and a feeling of hatred towards the criminals but, unfortunately, that just doesn’t happen. The pace of the screenplay is so easy that the tension never really builds up to the desired level. It is for this reason that the audience never once experiences a rush of adrenaline, which is a must for a film of this kind. In other words, there is just no edge-of-the-seat thrill or excitement. Resultantly, there is no sense of fulfilment which the audience experiences at the end of the show. Gopi Puthran’s dialogues, which could have been hard-hitting and inspiring, are not anything close to that. In fact, except for a handful of dialogues, the others are quite routine. The dialogues in the telephonic conversations between Shivani and the caller whom she doesn’t know are definitely entertaining.
Rani Mukerji is ordinary in the title role. Although one can’t fault her acting, there is nothing in her performance which would excite the viewers or inspire girls to emulate her. Her cool demeanour in the midst of the storm of tension she is going through looks too made up for effect. Jisshu U. Sengupta is more of a functional character which has nothing worthwhile to do. Tahir Raj Bhasin shines in the role of Karan. He acts with style and elan and has the right attitude to carry off the role. Anil George is effective as Vakil. Anant Sharma performs very ably as Sunny Katiyal. Mona Ambegaonkar is first-rate as Minoo Rastogi. Aman Uppal makes his presence felt in the role of Mattoo. Priyanka Sharma has her moments as Pyari in the initial reels after which she doesn’t quite impress. Mikhail Yawalkar is alright as sub-inspector Sodhi. Avneet Kaur (as Meera), Digvijay S. Rohidas (as Jafar), Ashish Warang (as More), Sanjay Taneja (as Taneja), Gautam Babbar (as Tandon), Peter Manuel (as Mbosa), Eddie Teel (as Mbangwa), Rio Kapadia (as joint commissioner of police Sinha), D.V. Vivek (as joint commissioner of police Iyer), Sahanand Verma (as Kapil), Habib (as Bob), Manik Puri (as Prakash), Prashant Sutra (as Mushtaq), Kanchan Pagare (as the goggle seller) and the rest lend fair support.
Pradeep Sarkar’s direction leaves something to be desired. His narration neither has the fire required for the drama nor the excitement needed to tackle an issue-based film of this kind. Also, he has kept the pace of the film very easy and, at times, even unnecessarily slow, whereas the need of the hour was a faster pace. Salim-Sulaiman’s music and Kausar Munir’s lyrics are functional. Julius Packiam’s background music is fair. Artur Zurawski’s cinematography is good. Manohar Verma’s action and stunt scenes lack the thrill one waits for in a film of this kind. Sets (by Bhawani Patel) and production designing (Madhu Sarkar Kuriakose) are okay. Sanjib Dutta’s editing ought to have been sharper.
On the whole, Mardaani is too ordinary a film for an emotional and disturbing issue like sex trafficking. It leaves the viewer unaffected and fails to inspire the women to revolt, which is what the film ought to have done. At the box-office, it will not be able to make its mark. A section of the evolved and women audience will like it for the intention behind the film but that won’t be enough for the film to succeed at the ticket windows.