When Mauli (Ritiesh Deshukh), walks into the frame in slow motion to rescue two abducted girls, his weapon of choice is a brick. This could be because Lord Vitthala stands on a brick (there’s a folktale to explain why); the dark-skinned version of Lord Krishna is a popular deity in Maharashtra, and a recurring motif in the Marathi masala movie, directed by Aditya Sarpotdar and produced by Deshmukh.
It is not a sequel to the 2014 hit Lai Bhaari also produced by the star, who led the cast, but it is part of the franchise with a character called Mauli—played by Deshmukh, a flamboyant fighter of goondas and righter of wrongs. What’s common between the two films is that Desmukh plays a double role.
In Mauli, Deshmukh, the eponymous protagonist, a cop, arrives in Kaapur, a village ruled by the villainous Nana (Jitendra Joshi), whose gang is into water control, illicit alcohol and land grabbing. Besides being evil and corrupt, Nana also seems to be an atheist, because he has locked up the village temple and opened his booze outlet right across the street.
The cops are all on Nana’s payroll, and anybody who opposes him is killed. When Mauli tries to put a stop to his crimes, he is beaten up and told that he must be as obedient as a dog, or else! The hackneyed worm-turns plot went out of style in the eighties, and the script is so predictable, that you know exactly what is going to happen much before it does; if there’s a pile a bricks you know the hero will spring out of it, if there’s a temple, he will have a conversation with God; and the only pretty and single girl in the village (Saiyami Kher) will fall for him. Popular comic actor, Siddharth Jadhav, turns up as Mauli’s sidekick.
Accompanied by religious chants and Ajay-Atul’s lively music, the film unabashedly adds religion to the typical mix of action-comedy-romance, and takes Mauli to a colourful climax. Full credit to Riteish Deshmukh for playing the two roles with enthusiasm and channelling his inner Jeetendra (in the star’s Southern remakes phase). Mauli is a poor cousin of the entertaining Lai Bhaari, but if expectations are kept low, it’s not too disappointing.