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Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s ‘Animal’ Contributes to a Broader Cultural Narrative That Normalizes Toxic Male Behavior

Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s ‘Animal’ Contributes to a Broader Cultural Narrative That Normalizes Toxic Male Behavior

  • The shallow storyline and stereotypical dialogues reduce Ranbir Kapoor’s role to a one-dimensional character displayed on the posters of the film.

“Animal” is directed by Sandeep Reddy Vanga, an Indian film director, screenwriter, and editor who works in Telugu and Hindi cinema and came into popularity in Bollywood with the Hindi remake of the Telugu Film “Arjun Reddy” (2017) under the title “Kabir Singh” (2019), with Shahid Kapoor in the lead. 

“Kabir Singh” ranks among the highest-grossing Hindi films of all time but Shahid Kapoor did not win the Best Actor award. Vanga’s recent Hindi-language film “Animal,” starring Ranbir Kapoor has broken several box office records and emerged as the 8th highest-grossing Indian film and the highest-grossing adults-only rated Indian film of all time. 

Vanga’s genre is male misogyny and toxic masculinity. The title “Animal,”  evokes raw aggression and primal behavior, reflecting the protagonist’s descent into violent obsession. The storyline of “Animal” is inspired by male dominance in a capitalistic society, where the central character, Vijay, (Ranbir Kapoor), is depicted as a psychotic individual grappling with childhood emotional neglect by a business tycoon father played by Anil Kapoor. 

Vijay has a warped attachment style with his father as an adult, a glorification of an emotionally absent father, and a thirst for revenge when he is attacked by estranged relatives who have strangely converted to Islam. His interactions with other human beings is dismissive and his actions towards women are characterized by toxicity and objectification, further reinforcing harmful stereotypes. 

Buying an expensive car or an antique saree from a museum for a spouse does not compensate for a lack of tenderness or empathy. There is no meaningful exploration or justification for the protagonist’s actions. No attempt to make him see reason, or see a psychiatrist but the family either keeps him away like a “caged animal” by isolating him in an overseas boarding school and later away from India to thwart his aggressive behavior towards other family members. 

Films like “Animal” show a total disregard of filmmakers towards social responsibility in portraying complex themes such as masculinity and violence.

Ranbir Kapoor has an innate charisma and is a talented “star” actor. Still, the shallow storyline and stereotypical dialogues make him seem like a one-dimensional character displayed on the posters of “Animal.”

Perhaps, Sandeep Reddy wanted that because Ranbir Kapoor received Best Actor at the Filmfare awards. Furthermore, the glorification of mindless violence for 3 hours and 25 minutes creates a sense of unease and dissatisfaction in a movie theater with a hall full of strangers.

Misogyny is prevalent in films worldwide. Bollywood films like “Animal” and Hollywood movies, “Fight Club,” and “American Psycho,” offer aggressive narratives that showcase themes of toxic masculinity in cinema.

“Fight Club,” directed by David Fincher, follows an unnamed protagonist (played by Edward Norton) who becomes entangled in an underground fight club that glorifies physical aggression to assert dominance. Similarly, “American Psycho,” directed by Mary Harron, offers a satirical take on toxic masculinity and the excesses of Wall Street culture. The protagonist, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), embodies male privilege and entitlement, engaging in acts of violence and misogyny while maintaining a veneer of charm and sophistication.

Each of these films contributes to a broader cultural narrative that normalizes and even glorifies toxic behavior, reinforcing harmful gender dynamics and societal norms. They raise concerns about the impact on societal perceptions and behaviors, particularly regarding the treatment of women.  

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Films like “Animal” show a total disregard of filmmakers towards social responsibility in portraying complex themes such as masculinity and violence, leaving room for more thoughtful and nuanced storytelling in cinema. 

This phenomenon further exacerbates the challenges women face in society, contributing to feelings of insecurity and vulnerability. Such films underscore the importance of critical engagement with media and the ongoing conversation about the impact of popular culture on societal attitudes and behaviors. 

It is through awareness, dialogue, and advocacy for change that meaningful progress towards gender equality and social justice can be achieved. 

“Animal” is streaming on Netflix. To stream or not to stream is the question. At least, the mindless violent scenes can be fast-forwarded.

With one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India, and a heart steeped in humanity, writing is a contemplative practice for Monita Soni. She has published hundreds of poems, movie reviews, book critiques, and essays and contributed to combined literary works. Her two books are My Light Reflections and Flow through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.

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