Movie Review – Akira

Akira – not quite Kurosawa

Akira opens to strains of a song from ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’ and suddenly segues into a thrumming, thrilling background score, against which we see a van driving into the dark night on empty streets.

Akira is based on Tamil film ‘Mouna Guru’ which was subsequently remade as ‘Guru’ in Kannada and ‘Shankara’ in Telugu. Akira is directed by AR Murgadoss who has also worked on the adaptation of the screenplay, based on the original by Santha Kumar.

Akira (Sonakshi Sinha) is raised to be a fearless young girl by her deaf-mute father (Atul Kulkarni.) She comes to the defense of some girls who are being teased by local hooligans and, in the process, throws acid on the face of one of the attackers. For this, she is sent to a remand home for three years. Subsequently, her father dies and her mother (Smita Jayakar) decides they will move to Mumbai to stay with Akira’s brother Ajay.

In a parallel story track, four corrupt policemen, led by Inspector Rane (Anurag Kashyap) are driving along aimlessly when a car comes speeding by and crashes at the side of the road. The driver is half dead. Debating whether to leave him or take him to hospital, the cops then find a huge amount of money in the boot, at which point Rane kills the driver and the four decide to divvy the loot among themselves.

Rane has an unwilling girlfriend, a small-time hooker named Maya (Raai Laxmi) who has fitted a video camera in her bedroom and therefore, films Rane talking to one of his crooked cops about the murder. This camera then gets stolen from her at a coffee shop. Someone calls up Rane to play an excerpt of the tape with the view of blackmailing him. He is now hot on the trail of this person and ends up killing Maya. One thing leads to another which leads to the college at which Akira is studying. Unwittingly, she gets framed in the whole sorry mess and Rane gets her admitted into a mental asylum under the care of a doctor who is hand-in-glove with him. However, Rane does not have it all stitched up, as he himself now comes under the scanner of SP Rabiya (Konkona Sen Sharma) who, while investigating Maya’s death, strongly suspects it to be a murder and starts unravelling the entire skein.

There is some neat symbolism at work in the script, where girls are taught traditional dance on one side of a village square and boys learn karate. I have to say the story is quite gripping until the interval and Murgadoss must be credited for connecting the dots in these parallel tales quite deftly. Special mention must be made of the point where the credit card bill leads to the coffee shop where the video camera was stolen from and which then links the theft to the college; in fact, for a crime thriller, there seem virtually no loose ends in the script.

Where it begins to lag is post interval. There is suddenly too much of hysteria in the tale. How does Rabiya (incidentally, she is heavily pregnant throughout, playing on the audience’s sympathy) link Maya’s death to the dude who died in the car crash? Also, after all her dogged efforts in nailing Rane and his merry men, she gets a phone call from the Commissioner aen waqt pe – for Rane – telling her to let them go as he has just found out the dead guy was some gangster’s brother and if all this news had to come out, there would be riots in the city. Huh? At which point Rabiya spouts some communal riot crap to Akira and tells her: “Ab sab tumhare haath mein hai.” Double huh??

Too much footage on acid attack victims in the first few frames, which doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of the story. The mental home appears to be a parody; I admit I have not spent time in these places but surely it is not quite as nutty as Murgadoss would have us believe! We also have an inmate who is a he wanting to be a she, complete with heavy beard shadow. During the shock treatments and later in her cell, Akira is shown without any makeup, blemishes and all, but she suddenly has kaajal on when she escapes to her brother’s house. And after all the grimness that such a tale evokes, there is a very pat ending, where Akira opens a village school against a nadiya and kheti-baadi backdrop. Quite a letdown, this.

Due credit to Sonakshi Sinha who has put her best foot (pun intended) forward. This is a very different character compared to the innocent housewife of ‘Dabangg’ or the ebullient firecracker of ‘Rowdy Rathore.’ She has worked on the role as well as on herself – weight loss plus the Kung Fu kicks. I just don’t get a couple of points: why is she glowering throughout the film and why does her hair look like it’s been hacked with a pair of garden shears?!

People say there is no hero in ‘Akira’ but, to my mind, it is Anurag Kashyap as the antagonist who wears the crown and who has effortlessly overshadowed Sinha’s efforts. This is not his first attempt at acting, however, I would say it is the first film where he has been so completely believable. He wears menace coupled with crude humour like a cloak; it is not hard to see how this man made the entirely credible and true-to-life ‘Gangs of Wasseypur.’

Raai Laxmi looks good and is about okay; in danger of hamming it in a couple of places there. Always a pleasure to watch Atul Kulkarni and he manages to emote even without dialogues. Smita Jayakar is spreading so much she is in danger of not fitting into the frame anymore. Which fruitcake thought it would be a good idea to pair her up with Kulkarni? She looks waaay older than him! Konkana Sen Sharma is there – and not there, if you get my drift. Her eyes are blank and it’s like she has drifted through her role.

Dialogues are by Karan Singh Rathore and a competent job too, although in the case of Rane’s dialogues, I daresay say Kashyap had a lot to contribute! Cinematography by RD Rajasekhar is compelling; the panoramic shot of Jodhpur, the Blue City, especially, is spectacular. Music is by Vishal-Shekhar; ‘Kehkasha tu meri’ has been well rendered by Shekhar Rajviani. John Stewart Eduri has done well with the background score. Editing is by A Sreekar Prasad and is fairly taut; it can hardly be laid at his door if the script suddenly took a leap into imagination.

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