The male lead of Mangesh Hadawale’s Malaal is the bad boy of a Mumbai chawl, which, in a film set in the late Nineties, with its heart caught somewhere in the Fifties, means that he smokes, drinks, plays cards, erupts into violence, cavorts with bar girls, and has dropped out of college. He is the kind of guy a local politician wants on the side of his saffron party.
The female lead is a schoolmarm-ish, college-going north Indian girl, and the initial friction is over the local-versus-outsider issue. The viewer sits up straighter to see where this goes, and it goes nowhere. He is given a lecture on how everybody is Indian, and that is that!
Shiva (Meezaan Jaffrey) is the good-for-nothing hoodlum, a part done to death in films; Aastha (Sharmin Segal) is the tease, who gives Shiva coy looks, but it all set to marry the Mercedes-driving man of her parents’ choice. Her father, it seems, lost his fortune in the stock market and was forced to move from a bungalow to a chawl. The reduced circumstances have not affected the family much, and they fit right into chawl life, exchanging food and dancing at Ganpati festivities. As he growls “she is mine” to other boys in the chawl, she nags—give up smoking and drinking, get a job, open a bank account! Their idea of a date is walking to Siddhivinayak temple.
There is parental opposition to this soggy romance, and a protesting fiancé, but there is no real drama in the film. Selvaraghavan, on whose Tamil film 7G Rainbow Colony this one is based, gets story credit, but Malaal is a completely watered down version of the 2004 hit. Obviously the passage of time has a lot to do with making this film look so hackneyed, because it has not been updated–romance has moved from tossing letters across balconies to swiping smartphone screens.
Malaal has been made only to give breaks to two industry kids—Meezaan and Sharmin—but they are given nothing to do that would make them stand out in a crowd of more talented and better-looking aspirants. Worse, they are put in a slow and boring film.