There’s an action sequence in the final few minutes of Mufti where actor Sriimurali is fighting a bunch of goons like he’s squashing some irritating mosquitoes on his shoulder. Shiva Rajkumar observes him from the sidelines without uttering a word and finally picks up a machete to put some of the men down. He — with his salt-and-pepper beard — fights alongside the younger star of the movie bombastically. That particular scene brought images from Upendra’s Om and Prem’s Jogi to mind in quick succession. It’s been twenty years since Om hit the screens and a decade since the release of Jogi. However, even after all these years, Shiva Rajkumar has that mojo in him when it comes to action films.
Mufti is a multi-starrer that’s designed to cater to fans of both the leads. Though Sriimurali is present from the beginning to the end, Shiva Rajkumar’s aura becomes the central focus of Mufti. These two actors are part of a film that blurs the lines between the good and the bad.
Earlier this year, Vikram Vedha, a Tamil film, wonderfully brought the tale of a cop and a criminal to our eyes in an interesting manner. At the end of that film, Madhavan’s Vikram (the cop) and Vijay Sethupathi’s Vedha (the criminal) weren’t too different from each other. They were, in fact, dressed in grey clothes in the climax to tell us that they belonged more or less to the same category.
In Mufti, the cop is Ganaa (Sriimurali) and the criminal is Ranagallu (Shiva Rajkumar). Ganaa is not an encounter specialist like Vikram; he’s an undercover cop. So, he does everything discreetly. In one of the earlier scenes, he kills a policeman to save him from the agony of getting burnt alive (by a thug named Kashi palyed by Vasishta N Simha). Ganaa, naturally, feels bad about killing a fellow cop. He, then, carves out Raavana (the demon with ten heads) from a piece of wood.
Ganaa hasn’t met Ranagallu at this point since the latter doesn’t make an appearance until the interval. Ranagallu is the kind of person who doesn’t blink twice before killing somebody, and — at the same time — he doesn’t think twice before giving several thousands to a tender-coconut seller. He’s a do-gooder to the people around him and an offender in the eyes of the government. In a strange cinematic way, he’s a hero and a villain.
The story is set in Ronapura, a town known for its mining and corruption. It provides an ideal location for some gritty action. And when Ravi Basrur raises the volume of his score, it’s time for you to suspend your thoughts for a while and just enjoy the jaw-dropping fight scenes.
The scenes featuring the two leads are only a handful but they are still whistle-worthy and inject the required energy to the film. Writer-director Narthan’s use of Shanvi Shrivastava serves absolutely no other purpose than a mere love interest. Shanvi plays an ad-filmmaker…oh, wait! That doesn’t matter at all. She falls for Sriimurali after he fights off drunken men one night. All of this is nothing but a distraction from the main plot. Also, the comedy involving Chikkanna and Sadhu Kokila should have been chopped off at the editing table. These bits pull the film down from what could have been a premium action rush.
If the teaming up of Shiva Rajkumar and Sriimurali ends up producing an action film with unnecessary elements, maybe directors should do away with the “essential factors of a commercial film” and start treating stories more honestly. Mufti is a step toward the big-screen, multi-starrer treat. Only, it isn’t the treat itself.