AK vs AK Movie Review: AK vs AK is an interesting experiment, alright. Actors playing themselves in a meta thriller embedded with doses of black humour is a potential genre that has been rarely explored in Hindi cinema. Even the making of the film, shot through a mockumentary style, adds a quirky nature to the whole premise. What makes it even more interesting is that the two leads, Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap, had a real life feud once, before they buried their differences. No, I am not even talking about their far more engaging promotional banter for AK vs AK. AK vs AK: Did You Know Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap Had Once Fought for Real Over a Film?
In 2003, Kashyap was supposed to direct Anil Kapoor in a gritty crime thriller, Allwyn Kallicharan, but Kapoor backed out of the film after the first day of the shoot, leaving the film in a lurch. This Allwyn Kallicharan is referenced a couple of times in AK vs AK, making us wonder if we were part of what could be a potential long con game played between Kapoor and Kashyap.
In AK vs AK, both play themselves, but amping up their narcissism several notches higher. In the beginning of the film, Kapoor wants Kashyap to direct him in a film, a proposal that the latter brushes off with disdain. The conversation happens just before a chat show hosted by film critic Sucharita Tyagi, where both of them pile insults upon insults on each other, until Kashyap loses his infamous temper and throws water on Kapoor.
This incident puts the director in more trouble, as the industry mostly sides with Kapoor, and he finds himself out of work. Not even Nawazuddin Siddiqui (in a very hilarious voice cameo) wants to work with him.
A hurt Kashyap decides to take revenge on Kapoor, and on the suggestion of his documentary filmmaker companion (slash girlfriend) Yogita, he decides to make a realistic cinema with his nemesis by kidnapping his daughter, actress Sonam, and giving Kapoor few hours before sunrise to seek her out. That too, on the actor’s birthday!
Of course, there are rules. Kapoor can’t call the police or inform his family about his predicament. He cannot hurt Kashyap. And when he has to talk on the phone, it has to be on speaker. Also, the camera cranked by Yogita will keep following him, never stopping to roll for a moment. But that doesn’t stop Kapoor from breaking a few rules and noses, as the night gets messier and bloodier and twistier.
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AK vs AK is directed by Kashyap’s favourite collaborator, Vikramaditya Motwane, who also uses the film to troll himself, apart from his two leads. As an experiment, AK vs AK works to some extent in breaking the conventional storytelling format of Bollywood, while relishing on the dollops of black humour that Kashyap’s dialogues have to offer.
The premise has a bit of David Fincher’s The Game and a bit of Frank Oz’s Bowfinger in there, and also influences from Borat and This is the End. And at one point, AK vs AK even threatens to turn into a Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Kapoors.
I particularly loved the whole first act that sets up Kashyap’s cinematic revenge on Kapoor. The burns that they throw at each other, and some comic sequences (Kashyap thinking Kapoor has sent some birthday cake to him only to realise it was a leftover) offer entertainment in plentiful. Anil Kapoor Issues a Video Apology After Air Force Objects to AK vs AK’s Trailer, Team Netflix Says ‘Was Never Our Intention to Disrespect the Armed Forces’.
As the action later moves to Anil Kapoor’s household, it just gets better. It is refreshing to Boney Kapoor show glimpses that even the producer has some acting chops, but the absolute scene-stealer is Harshvardhan Kapoor in what could be his career-best performance to date. The actor plays up to the whimsical image that is perceived about him in the media, and ekes a few laughs out of that. The scene where he thinks Kashyap is making a hostage film with Kapoor (which he is, in reality) and adds himself to the plot is absolutely howlarious, with the camera trained on him completely. When AK vs AK offers dollops of meta fun, is where it is the most entertaining.
Unfortunately, here’s also where the film falters too, when it reminds that AK vs AK is also a hostage thriller. Like the cops at the Dindoshi police station scene in the film, it is difficult for us to believe that the stakes are real in the whole kidnapping plotline. Even when Kashyap and Kapoor come to fisticuffs. Or when Kapoor chases a kidnapper to a local train and then gets hit by a car. Or when Kapoor goes against Kashyap’s expectations that the film won’t offer him a chance to share his inside thoughts and begins to monologue. It all feels like both are trying to audition for a far grittier thriller that would never get made.
It is nothing on the actors, though. Anil Kapoor is an absolute treat to watch here, never for a moment going for that metaphysical wink to the screen in letting the viewer know that nothing happening to his character isn’t real. Super-energetic and never flinching with the cuss words, Kapoor relishes playing himself in perhaps his most experimental film.
As an actor, Kashyap is much better than the films I have seen him before, especially in the scenes where he has to display befuddlement when the film goes beyond the script he wrote.
Like with the actors, I really can’t find the blame in Motwane’s direction, as the Udaan filmmaker does his best with the unconventionality of it all, while paying little nods (and burns) to his own Bhavesh Joshi Superhero in the process. What I felt didn’t work is that the whole documentary style filmmaking and metaness of characters didn’t gel well for a serious piece of cinema, creating jarring tonal issues. Or maybe it was Sonam looking the most unconvincing hostage in the history of cinema.
The huge twist in the finale (that’s a bit predictable too) also feels a little difficult to digest. In retrospect, some scenes make sense after the twist, but it also makes the whole narrative more illogical than Kapoor’s Pagalpanti. At least, we get a scene where Harshvardhan screams “JUSTICE!!!” in the process!
– Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap
– The Irreverent Humour
– Harshvardhan Kapoor’s Cameo
– Stakes Feel Lower Than What The Crisis Demands
– The Third Act Twist is Formulaic, Predictable and At Times, Indigestible
As an experimental black comic thriller, AK vs AK works for doing something different, served by a game performance by Anil Kapoor. The movie surely had potential and delivers some nice burns, but it doesn’t serve well as a serious thriller, which AK vs AK turns in the second half. AK vs AK is streaming on Netflix.
(The above story first appeared on Onhike on Dec 24, 2020 01:30 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website onhike.com).