Movie Review: AK vs AK

Actors playing themselves in cameos in films are not a new phenomenon, not just in Hollywood but also in Bollywood. But there have been many instances of actors who play fictional and exaggerated versions of themselves for added effect. For instance, Farah Khan’s OM SHANTI OM [2007] featured special appearances of many actors in such avatars. Recently, two Netflix shows, MASABA MASABA and FABULOUS LIVES OF BOLLYWOOD WIVES were also on similar lines. And now Netflix’s final Indian film of the year, AK VS AK, also takes up the idea but goes into a crazy zone. The trailer has already aroused curiosity and also the marketing campaign of pitting lead actors Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap against one another has caught attention. So does AK VS AK manage to give audiences a thrilling time? Or does it fail to entertain? Let’s analyse.

Web Series Review AK vs AK

AK VS AK is the story of a rivalry between a director and a filmmaker which takes a horrible turn. Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap (Anurag Kashyap) arrives at a venue for a discussion on cinema with actor Anil Kapoor (Anil Kapoor). Before the discussion, both meet backstage. Anurag is accompanied with Yogita (Yogita Bihani), who’s making a documentary on the life of Anurag and shooting everything on her camera. Anil expresses his desire to work with Anurag. But Anurag is hurt since Anil had refused to work with him twice in the past. He makes his displeasure clear to Anil. On stage, both take pot-shots at each other. When Anil accidentally spills water on Anurag’s shoes, the latter assumes that the former did it purposely. In anger, Anurag throws water on Anil’s face. The video goes viral and Anurag gets shunned from the industry. Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui who was supposed to work in his next film opts out. Anurag is saddened by the cold shoulder meted out to him. At this juncture, Yogita gives him an idea to get back at Anil and also to get back his career on track. Anurag loves it and decides to set it in motion. Some days later, he meets Anil at Film City, wherein he’s shooting for a film where he’s playing an air force officer. It’s also his birthday and he’s seen cutting cake on the sets. For a few hours, Anil doesn’t give Anurag any attention to get back at him. Later, he calls Anurag in his vanity van. Anurag asks Anil to work in his next. Anil, obviously, refuses. Anurag insists on telling the story. As per his script, a crazy filmmaker kidnaps the actor-daughter of an aged actor. The aged actor then has 12 hours to find his daughter. Anurag even adds that Anil’s daughter, Sonam (Sonam K Ahuja), is working in this film. Anil laughs it off. Anurag tells him to call Sonam and confirm. He calls her and gets shocked as he realizes that Anurag has her phone. Anurag then announces that he has kidnapped Sonam and that he has to find her before sunrise. He would accompany Anil while Yogita will film the whole drama. Anil gets flabbergasted obviously. He goes to Dindoshi Police Station. Anurag and Yogita, with her camera, also reach there. The cops assume Anil is acting and praise him for his performance! Anurag, in fact, tweets that he’s working with Anil in his next. So everyone believes that Anil is rehearsing for his next. This is when Anurag shows Anil a video of Sonam hands tied, being held hostage by a masked man. Anil realizes that he has no choice but to do as Anurag says to save Sonam. What happens next forms the rest of the film.

Avinash Sampath's story is truly unique and never before seen in Indian cinema. Avinash Sampath and Vikramaditya Motwane's screenplay does justice to the plot in hand. The tension between the two artists is well thought of and scripted. They also pepper the narrative with some very entertaining and also moving moments and try their best to ensure that the attention of the viewers don’t wither away even for a second. Sadly, the film does drag at a few places and even gets repetitive. Anurag Kashyap's dialogues are raw, witty and situational. The references to the film industry are like an icing on the cake.

Vikramaditya Motwane's direction is supreme and much better than his last outing, BHAVESH JOSHI SUPERHERO [2018]. All his earlier four films have been of varied genres but AK VS AK stands out. Firstly, this film is made in a found footage fashion. Majority of the scenes are one-take shots and kudos to him and his team for pulling them off, some of which are complex and lengthy. Secondly, Mumbai is shown in a never before fashion and that also adds to the appeal. Thirdly, he keeps all the focus on the story and adds enough thrills and chills to surprise the audiences. On the flipside, the scene at Anil’s house could have been executed in a better way. The fight, of course, is great but the scene before that in the residence is nothing special. The film drags a bit and one wishes if the 1.48 hours long film was shorter by 10-15 minutes. The climax twist catches you unawares. But it is also a bit unconvincing. Everyone might not be able to digest the sudden developments.

AK VS AK doesn’t waste any time and the story starts progressing from the first scene. The public fight of the two and its repercussions is well shown. The film goes on a high when Anurag tells Anil that Sonam has been kidnapped. The way the tension is built at this juncture is excellent. The film gets even better in the police station sequence which is sure to bring the house down. The initial sequence in Anil’s house is okay but the intense physical fight that takes place between the two is quite gripping. In the second half, what stands out are the chase sequence at the railway station and Anil’s breakdown after he meets with an accident. The film gets a bit dragging from here on but the twist in the tale reignites interest. The finale is quite unexpected.

Talking of performances, the film belongs to Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap. Anil Kapoor delivers one of the finest performances of his career. To see him such take up such a physically challenging and emotionally draining character at this age is sure to make audiences bow their hands down to this marvellous actor. He especially shines in emotional moments, be it in the scene where he’s hit by the car or the scene where he’s compelled to dance by the crowd. Anurag Kashyap too gives his finest acting performance. There has been no doubt that he’s a fine actor and this film confirms this aspect yet again. There was a certain degree of madness required for the part which he brings to the fore effortlessly. Also, it’s great to see both Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap agreeing for such a film that mocks themselves. It’s surely a welcome change. Yogita Bihani is a crucial part of the narrative but as per the theme, she’s hardly seen in the film. Nevertheless, she puts in a fine effort. Sonam K Ahuja is okay in the cameo. Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor (as himself) is over-the-top but it works in the context of the film. Boney Kapoor (as himself) is lovely. Vipul Deshpande (Police inspector) leaves a huge mark. Pawan Singh (Javed) and Mohammed Kaleem Zia (Rahim Chacha) are impressive. Raghav Aggarrwal (Jalal), Sucharitya Tyagi (as herself), Lauren Robinson (Assistant Director Rohini, who asks Anurag to stop filming), Sakshi Manipuri (Arrogant fashion show organizer), Manoj Mathre (Hotel Manager Mathur) and Shri Prakash Singh and Majari Singh (Anurag Kashyap's parents) are fair.

Music is situational. 'Duniya Badi Gol' and 'Ghum' are in a wacky space. 'Khalaas' is played in the end credits. Alokananda Dasgupta's background score adds to the madness and the drama. Swapnil Sonawane's cinematography (additional cinematography by Yogita Bihani) is one of the strengths of the film. The shaky camerawork is done very artistically. Aditya Kanwar's production design is realistic. Vikram Dahiya's action is straight out of real life, without any larger-than-life element for obvious reasons. Shruti Kapoor's costumes are authentic. The special mention should go to the hair and make-up team. They have taken due care about the continuity very well. Mayank Dhasmana's title sequence and graphics design, is on the lines of video games, and goes well with the film. Bunty Bhansali's editing is sharp.

On the whole, AK VS AK is an experimental effort that succeeds big time. Despite a few minuses, the film is definitely worth watching for its unique and wacky script, gripping moments and of course, the mighty performances of Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap. Recommended!

Rating: 3.5 stars

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