Synopsis – A filmmaker kidnaps the daughter of a movie star, and while the star searches for his daughter the director films the desperate search in real time for his next blockbuster movie.
My Take – While many filmmakers have divulged into the makings of the film industry and its stars before, right from its first trailer to its delightful marketing over the past few weeks, it became quite evident that this Vikramaditya Motwane directed Netflix film was going to be a departure from the straight-laced cinema style which we have to come expect.
In truth, this one is less of a film and more of a bold experiment into which director Motwane dives into completely, with the complete energetic participation of Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap, and their highlighted self.
Honestly, on paper this might have seemed like a tricky film to execute convincingly, especially considering how the current Indian audience often find themselves incapable of separating themselves from reality and fiction, but thankfully, this novel approach has resulted is one of the finest Hindi films of the year, and definitely the most unique with a mainstream actor in the past decade.
The film’s innovative approach not just makes it different, enjoyable and psychotropic, but also a solitary piece, that under the disguise of dark comedy, indulges in trade stinging truths about the perpetual conflicts between the old and the new, mainstream and the independent in the fraught world of cinema.
It’s rare to come across a film like this one from the Hindi cinema, which consumes you thoroughly for 108 minutes, and also makes a strong case for why we need to support inventive and experimental content like this.
The story follows Anil Kapoor (played by Anil Kapoor himself), a veteran actor, and Anurag Kashyap (played by Anurag Kashyap himself), a self-obsessed filmmaker who is often considered the poster boy for dark content, who are at loggerheads with each other. A tussle which began during a session at MAMI 2019 where both are co-panelists for a masterclass. However an argument between the two turns ugly when Kashyap ends up throwing a glass of water on Kapoor’s face in a fit of rage. And with Kapoor being the more respected personality out of the two, the industry largely decides to boycott Kashyap, including Nawazuddin Siddiqui (played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui himself), who decides to abruptly drop out of his film.
Convinced that a score needs to be settled, Kashyap along with aspiring filmmaker, Yogita (played by Yogita Bihani herself) devises a dangerous plot to get back at Kapoor. Arriving on his set to pitch him a ‘real’ idea on the eve of Christmas and Kapoor’s birthday, Kashyap informs him that he has kidnapped his daughter, Sonam Kapoor (played by Sonam Kapoor herself), and has time till sunrise to save her without any outside help.
While Kapoor is both perplexed and enraged by the idea, but upon validating the situation agrees to begin a wild goose chase across the city with both Kashyap and Yogita following him with a recording camera, to make a film out of the entire episode.
The whole night takes you through various places and emotions as Kapoor desperately and helplessly attempts to track down his kidnapped daughter. In the course of the night you get to experience the high life of the celebrity as one gets a peek into the luxurious home of Anil Kapoor and the envious DVD collection of Anurag Kashyap, and the gritty reality of the lesser privileged areas of the city.
Yes, the plot begs considerable suspension of disbelief on the part of viewers before one can delve further into the narrative, but the film keeps so hooked that you get in and out of real and fictitious world at a neck breaking speed. The narrative is brimmed with fun factors, witty repartee, intelligent humor and the snarkiest writing of recent times. Especially the amount of insults both Kapoor and Kashyap hurl at one another with some jokes made about the Bollywood industry.
However, at times, the narrative does border on erratic inconsistency, taking away some of the sheen of the glittering writing, especially the drag hunt for Javed, the taxi driver, which stretches on unnecessarily. Running for 108 minutes the film does contain some sequences that feel incredulous, contrived or plain bizarre, and yet we are hooked because it is engaging with the viewers directly.
Regardless, this is a brave attempt by director Motwane who has always had the courage to break out of fixed formulae. Here too his delightful attempt with writer Avinash Sampath, has given us a whole new experience. Despite knowing this is a work of fiction, both sprinkle enough truths to make it seem authentic enough. For instance they shoot in actual locations, which facilitates the appearance of Kapoor‘s family members like Boney Kapoor, and son Harshvardhan. Elements that blur the lines between real and fiction to a great extent.
Here, director Motwane also examines the effect of being famous and the relationship stars have with fans. For example, during his search, Kapoor is constantly asked by the public for selfies and autographs and also has to perform for them before he gets the answers he needs to find Sonam, making a strong statement that it is the public that turns an actor into a star.
There are enough jokes on Kashyap as well, like the one about his brother, Abhinav Kashyap (director of Dabangg), being the most commercially successful filmmaker in the family. Sure, a lot hinges on the final big twist. Some might enjoy the wickedness, others might not be as convinced, but you have to agree the film doesn’t have a single dull moment.
Kudos to all actors of the film, as it takes a lot of confidence to agree to be part of an experiment like this one. It can be safely said that no actor in Bollywood has reinvented himself as well as Anil Kapoor has done. In a career spanning over four decades, Kapoor has experimented with genres, roles and even a different industry. With an excellent performance, he once again proves why he continues to remain so adored and respected by all sections of the industry and the audience.
Surprisingly, Anurag Kashyap matches him step for step, nuance for nuance, affirming the fact that good directors certainly make good actors. Together, the two create magic on screen with their palpable chemistry, despite the fact that they’re at loggerheads throughout the run time of the film.
While Sonam Kapoor doesn’t have much to do here, Harshvardhan Kapoor, leaves a strong mark in one of the most entertaining portions of the film. Yogita Bihani too puts in an adequate performance and fits the bill. On the whole, ‘AK vs AK’ is one hell of an audacious and experimental ride that is hilarious, thrilling, engaging and brilliantly acted.
Directed – Vikramaditya Motwane
Rated – R
Run Time – 108 minutes