Animal has a lot of legitimate issues in terms of its filmmaking and narrative. Fanboys can refute those criticisms by stating that it boils down to one’s taste and that it’s all subjective. I’m not saying that I’ll agree with them because it’s wrong, but I’m saying that that can be done. However, haters and lovers of the film and its stars have to reach the fabled middle ground and agree that the way Bobby Deol has been used as Abrar Haque is disappointing as hell. Deol has been the final stinger in both of the trailers. He has been attending all the fan and press meetings and being pushed to hog the limelight. Ranbir Kapoor has heavily advertised his presence. And after all that hype, he’s barely in the movie. Yes, through the years, we’ve come across characters with minimal screen time and maximum impact. Sometimes, filmmakers promote a certain character only to subvert our expectations with something better. Vanga does none of that. He makes Abrar the final boss of the movie, and then nothing. Vanga can say that “it’s intentional” all he wants in order to deflect this criticism, but my theory is that he got so involved in his misogynistic subplots that he simply forgot to give his primary villain a proper arc.
Through an exposition-heavy scene, Rajdheer Singh tells us that he had two other brothers. The elder brother, played by Prem Chopra (add that to the list of wasted cameos), stayed back at the Pind and built his business of bouncers, I guess. Rajdheer and the younger brother wanted to conquer the world, whatever that meant, and ended up forging Swastik Steel. But then this younger brother went rogue, and Rajdheer had to cut him out of the family tree. So, he shifted with his family somewhere outside India and then randomly self-immolated. One fine day, the younger brother’s son came to Balbir to get a piece of Swastik Steel because it was his birthright. Balbir rejected it. Then he went back, changed his religion, and married three or four times. Abrar is that dude’s eldest son. Abrar apparently witnessed the death of his grandfather and went mute. So, his brother, Abid, translates for him. There are two other brothers named Asrar and Aziz. In the present day, all of them launch an attack on the Singhs with the help of Varun. Asrar dies. They send a girl called Zoya to honeytrap Ranvijay and replace him with Aziz, who has undergone extensive surgery to look like Ranvijay. However, Ranvijay figures all this out and faces off with Abrar after threatening one of Abrar’s pregnant wives at gunpoint, and then kills him. End of story.
Even though it is very cliche, Abrar was meant to be the dark reflection (or the darkest reflection) of Ranvijay. Technically speaking, Ranvijay’s whole bloodlust is hollow and pointless. Abrar at least had the whole “jilted extended family member” thing going for him. But we don’t get to see how this so-called fire in him formed. What was his relationship with his family? What caused his grandfather to set himself on fire in front of him? What was Abrar’s father doing? What is Abrar’s father doing in the present day? He apparently had a gang of properly armed men who couldn’t fire properly due to plot-related reasons, but what was his source of income? What did he and his family do internationally to be as influential and powerful as Swastik Steel? If he was so influential and powerful, what was the need to try and kill Balbir? Was Abid coaxing him to take revenge? Why did he just give up fighting Ranvijay, even though he didn’t have to? He’s supposed to be the big bad of Animal, and all we got was some poorly worded exposition and a horribly choreographed and edited fight sequence. I think Asrar got more screen time and had more impact on the film than Abrar. But now the onus is on Aziz to avenge everyone in his family? If I couldn’t bring myself to care for Abrar, Asrar, and Abid’s shenanigans, why should I care for what Aziz wants to do? Hence, what was even the point of creating Abrar Haque? What was the point of creating so many antagonists and not utilizing the substance that their characters were imbued with? I don’t know, and I don’t think Sandeep Reddy Vanga can explain his way out of this misstep, either.
On top of all that, there’s the stereotyping by using long-debunked tropes to cater to current majoritarian sentiments. Look, I am as afraid of censorship as Sandeep Reddy Vanga. The only difference is that I don’t claim to be a Sigma-Alpha-Theta-Zeta man, and he does. So, I’ll try to keep this part of the “character analysis” as to-the-point as possible. Ranvijay Singh talks about birthing hips. He romanticizes abuse in a marriage. He drinks cow urine during a religious ceremony. He fires a gun that has “Made in India” written on it. He murders hundreds of people. He cheats on his wife, doesn’t fall in love with the “other woman” but makes her fall in love with him, tells the “other woman” to lick his boots, and then rationalizes said cheating to his wife with the good old “had to do it for the family.” He is rewarded with forgiveness from his father and a hug from his son. Ranvijay Singh is the hero of Animal. Abrar Haque has two wives and is marrying a third. One of the wives is with Abrar because he is the silent type, and the other one is with Abrar because he is well-endowed. After killing the messenger of Asrar’s death and bathing in blood, Abrar proceeds to force himself on the third newlywed wife. Then, he forces the other two wives and the third wife to have four-way intercourse with him. When one of the wives asks him to slow down, he slaps them into submission. He doesn’t live in India and wants to take over Swastik Steel by force. Abrar’s father was a religious convert who apparently did the same. Before dying, Abrar points at whatever lies between his legs, and then his neck is sawed with a kirpan by Ranvijay. These are the defining characteristics of the villain in Animal. To understand what’s wrong with this particular framing of the hero and the villain, you have to be in sync with everything that’s going on around us and not view it through the lens of bigotry. I hope that helps.
In my opinion, Animal’s Abrar Haque and his entire family tree are very underwritten, and it seems like he is there to both appease and provoke certain sections of the audience. One look at the names of the people on the film crew will make it clear why that is so unfortunate. It’s as if Sandeep Reddy Vanga is aware of the kind of hatred and prejudice that is coursing through the veins of the country, and he doesn’t care if he’s adding to it. Fortunately, the execution of this discriminatory part of the plot is so bad, because Vanga is really so incompetent, that the only thing that audiences are going to remember when they walk out of the theater is that it was all a waste of a potentially good villain and a waste of Bobby Deol’s skills. Actually, more than Vanga, I am disappointed in Bobby Deol for resorting to this kind of nonsense for what can only be defined as a forgettable extended cameo. At the cost of sounding repetitive, what a waste!