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AK vs AK Review: A cheeky insider joke transformed into a meta experience about art, society, pathos, and life.

Sagnik Kumar Gupta

A critically acclaimed director gets involved in a public brawl with a yesteryear superstar and kidnaps the star’s daughter to film his struggle in finding her in order to capture real sweat and blood. A film which may have easily been an insider joke driven by real-life stars making appearances (no to mention it is too enticing and juicy material to resist for both the makers and us Bollywood buffs) Motwane resists that urge and presents us with a moving portrayal of the mad asylum that is the Hindi film industry.

The film aims to be a mockumentary that breaks all barriers and portrays the humane as well as the miserable side of the famous or not so famous celebrities . But does it succeed in breaking aura? I guess that depends on how much you are mentally prepared to go on this journey. Anurag Kashyap plays the first AK- an egotistic director, who can literally do anything for the sake of cinema. It is so much fun to see Anurag play a larger-than-life parody version of himself who often gets called Anurag Basu to Madhur Bhandarkar at traffic jams or police stations, but at MAMI he is a rockstar whose film name is cheered like the lyrics of a very famous song. Anil Kapoor on the other hand plays the other AK — a yesteryear star fighting to keep himself relevant by constantly humming the dialogues and catchphrases of his old films. He is broken and hungry for his former position in the industry but not for once does he forget that he is a star and that is a pedestal that he demands constantly.

Motwane who co-wrote the film uses all the mainstream tropes and brews it like a fine stew of both mainstream and arthouse sensibilities. Motwane is probably the only director working in the film industry who has such a varied and equally brilliant filmography. He for once isn’t scared of embarking on this risky endeavor. A father helplessly looking for his child with a running clock in a cruel heartless city is probably the most cliched subgenre of cinema that has been done to death. It takes a lot of invention and clever writing matched with impeccable character development to actually make this work. Motwane exactly does that. The thrill that persists throughout the length of the film is pitch-perfect. The main themes of the story are pathos, the duality of the audiences ie the country and of course insecurity. Juggling so many angles of the story can be tricky but I can surely say for the maximum time the film maintains this balance. Inspite of all these pros, the screenplay is not exceptionally tight but ideally shouldn’t even be for this kind of film. The fact that we are at the edge of our seats (or our beds ) is a feat in itself.

Anurag, who was for the longest time the blue-eyed boy of alternate cinema in India has of late become particularly vocal in his protest against the undemocratic fascist acts of the political party in power as well as the ill practices in Bollywood. His most recent film Choked saw his activist persona overpower his artist persona. So it was just pure poetic justice to see Anurag chase an elitist figure of Bollywood in an Indian Air Force costume making him bleed or cry for real. The film takes jibes at its characters, mocks them, cracks insider jokes but to its credits doesn’t for once get indulgent. Motwane isn’t here to present a hostage story involving a mad director and an insecure star. The undercurrents are strong with the connotations and symbolic imagery are for each one to discover.

The two AKs are just phenomenal in their respective roles. Anurag is just a natural in front of the camera as he is behind it. Anurag quite easily slips into a role that is quite theatrical in parts and in the process delivering one of the best performances of the year. Anil Kapoor is just perfect in his role. He acts like it is his last chance at attaining his long-lost A list star status and in the process gives his everything to this film. A particular scene where Anil Kapoor dances in Dharavi and calls himself a “bhand”(jester) is particularly painful and at the same time breathtaking. In this particular year when nepotism has taken the center stage and overpowered craft, Kapoor taking constant jibes at himself — his privilege and his lineage is such a welcome change. The two actors enormously feed on each others energy and to emphasize again Anurag going toe to toe with such a veteran is such a pleasant surprise. Anurag mentioned in an interview he doesn’t like acting, but after this role I would love to see Anurag more regularly. Yogita plays an upcoming director who records the whole adventure (she is also credited as one of the DOPs). Sonam Kapoor and Bonney Kapoor make an appearance in the film as themselves with not much consequence. Harshvardhan on the other hand steals the scenes he is in with his electrifying presence. He memorably mentions in the film that “Motwane fucked me with Bhavesh Joshi, Anurag can redeem me!”.

Ak vs Ak is an experiment with extremely favourable results. The climax of the film might evoke varied reactions but for me, it serves justice to the movie which is Bollywood unleashed. After this film, there should be no doubt (if there was any) that Vikramaditya Motwane is indeed the most versatile and exciting filmmaker working in the Hindi film industry and one just wishes and hopes that he doesn’t stop experimenting and amazing us for years to come.

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Alternate Take

Alternate Take

A space for reviews, retrospectives, analyses, interviews around all things cinema, standing left of the field.