Films like Ek Villain Returns and its precursor, Ek Villain, stoke the male ego that’s unable to handle a woman having agency and the choice to end a relationship and move on. These bruised egos sometimes lead to crimes of passion, playing on this twisted notion of mad love that cannot tolerate being unrequited.
Ek Villain Returns is being described as a ‘spiritual sequel’ to director Mohit Suri's 2014 thriller, in which an emasculated and humiliated husband (played by Riteish Deshmukh) vents out his anger by murdering women who talk down to him.
In 2022, two men approach rejection in their own cruel and violent ways. Gautam Mehra (Arjun Kapoor) is a wealthy businessman’s spoiled and entitled son, who lives by the credo “it’s better to die than to lose”. After publicly shaming the girl who jilted him, Gautam swiftly moves on to upcoming singer Aarvi Malhotra (Tara Sutaria). Their relationship, fortified at the cost of the destruction of a competitor’s career, is its own kind of fatal attraction.
The film opens a few months after their meet-cute when a masked intruder breaks into a highrise apartment and brutally murders people in his path. The lead cop (Shaad Randhawa) on the case is in a hurry to pin the crime on Gautam Mehra, but inspector Ganesan (JD Chakravarthy) believes this is the work of the smiley symbol serial killer.
In a parallel track a radio cab driver is besotted with a saleswoman and will go to any extent to elicit a five-star rating from her. Bhairav (John Abraham) is meek and obedient, until he isn’t. Rasika’s (Disha Patani) attention and behaviour bring out the best and worst in Bhairav. It’s not by accident that writers Suri and Aseem Arora have given Bhairav a second job—as an assistant in a local zoo, which is managed by an abusive widower with a young son.
If Aarvi is mischievous and with a mean streak, she’s also nursing the hurt of being rejected by her birth father. Rasika, on the other hand, is more of a survivor, manipulative and self-serving.
The face off between the two masked men takes place in a highly stylised fight in a moving train. What’s common between them is they both equate love with fear and victory.
It soon becomes clear that the serial killer is targeting women who have left behind broken-hearted men. It’s a hugely problematic motivation in a script that’s replete with such broad strokes.
A series of confounding scenes and plot twists are hurled at the audience even as a deafening sound scape assaults your senses. One cohesive element to this two-hour enterprise is that it’s consistently a well-matched contest for most vacuous character.
The principal characters are either on the edge of darkness or have stepped over the precipice. These villains don’t need a hero to offset their crazy. They need clinical help.
The last few scenes are the most terrifying of all, as they come with the worrying possibility that Suri might be creating a villain metaverse.