Tony (My Mentor The Serial Killer Tony)
Yashodhan Rana, Akshay Verma, Manoj Chandila, Mahesh Jilowa
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
…a dense tapestry that manages to engage and unsettle from end to end, with nary a dead spot in sight.
There is a certain expectation for Western moviegoers when they sit down to watch Hindi cinema. Much as Hollywood has such ubiquity in the West that it is basically the industry, Bollywood-born masala film has a similar perception, and with that, a very iconic style of storytelling. Just the phrase ‘Bollywood musical’ is enough to conjure images that stick to the stereotypical vision of the region’s cinema. But then there are some that break away from the pack and deliver something a bit different. A bit darker. A bit more challenging. Tony is such a film.
Right from its high-octane rock-backed opening credits to its more sombre conclusion, the first striking thing about this film is its tone. Or, more specifically, that it can be pinned down to having one in the first place. Where the perceived standard is made up of a slurry of different genres and tones, that it feels like watching several films collide with each other, this one keeps its standing well within the psychological crime thriller. A playing with contrasts between the nerve-racking subject matter and the slow-burn pacing, what starts out as the story of an ill-fated meeting between four psych students and a serial killer turns into something far bigger. In that way, it maintains some of the region’s flavour.
The script’s lurid detailing of murderous psychology, the hows, whys and ultimate rationalisation for such actions already packs a heavy punch, but when combined with the plain-faced voyeurism of the titular Tony’s budding proteges, it nudges into commentary on its own genre. This brand of tied-to-the-perpetrator crime yarn, especially for Aussie audiences, is something that generates immense and profoundly morbid fascination. It’s a difficult tightrope to walk, poking at the audience that enjoys violent spectacle while still wanting them to engage with your own, but unlike Natural Born Killers or The House That Jack Built, it isn’t so overt that it becomes patronising. If anything, its subtlety makes it ring through and make the audience extra uncomfortable.
Tony’s scope is quite immense for the sort of story it tells. It also juggles ideas of justice, sin and forgiveness across a variety of aspects within Hindi culture, from religion to the state to law enforcement, even family in one of the more perverse examples of “it’s not what you know, but who you know” on-screen in recent years.
The film tackles so many heavy subjects that, admittedly, its reach goes beyond its grasp at points. But it still results in a dense tapestry that manages to engage and unsettle from end to end, with nary a dead spot in sight. It goes beyond showing greater consistency and quality control than a bulk of the Hindi films that make it over here, and even gives the West a run for its money in the process. It’s a triumphant serving of parallel cinema, and a damn tense ride to boot.