It is a major high to see a woman perform great stunts. Her punches and kicks send you on a high adrenaline ride that her slaps don’t. It is also equally appalling and shameful for a hero (or a common man) to perform a Dola Re Dola in public. Gender appropriation, feminism, women empowerment, equality etc are massively misused, misconstrued terms in India. AR Murugadoss’ Akira wastes no time in setting up these differences right at the outset. Boys are shown to practise karate and girls kathak – only a feet away from each other. The director puts everything out there – on your face. Subtlety is something he is unaware of.
Remade from a Tamil film with a male protagonist (Mouna Guru), Murugadoss does little to adapt the screenplay for Bollywood and, more importantly, to a woman. Not that he did so in his previous ventures (Ghajini, Holiday – A Soldier is Never Off Duty) that had huge male stars backing them. Akira (Sonakshi Sinha) does pretty much everything what an alpha male would have, in similar situations. She dissed for her gender. She can pretty much break every bone in your body – all of which is great. How about the message that comes across? The dynamics and stakes differ when a female protagonist is on focus. How about an iota of sensitivity? Not a thing with Murugadoss.
Midway through this lengthy film, Akira makes a speech for children with special needs. A speech on how one is disabled only when he/she doesn’t fight oppression, or is mum to others’ suffering. The film’s long-drawn, absurd climax nullifies every single word she spoke. Our badass leading lady ends up with the dreaded heroine act – sacrifice. Even if we view Akira as a commercial potboiler, the revenge remains unrequited. The villains aren’t punished. Akira doesn’t get to walk off to the sunset like a true boss. She has an understated victory and ends up in a mind-numbingly tame vocation. The writers blame it on her father’s principles. Groan!
Akira is a strangely violent film with Jupiter-sized plot holes. Much like a Tamil film dubbed in Hindi but with a fiery woman hogging every frame. Oh wait, there’s a thankless love interest (Amit Sadh) angle too. A city version of a gaon ki gori, he works for an NGO and miraculously falls for our girl. Now that’s one gender reversal worth noticing. All I missed was a sexy item number with him seduce our brooding Akira. Talking about Tamil cinema, the film also has Anurag Kashyap playing to the gallery and the whole boulevard as this hateful, all-dark cop. He cracks a line, “Maal sahi hai. South ka lagta hai…”. Was it Murugadoss rubbing his bewildered ego or Kashyap expressing his well-known love for southern cinema? Kashyap’s character is also shown to briefly date South Indian hottie Raai Laxmi. Well, well.
Akira also turns out to be a dictionary of stock characters. Eve teasers, that noble teacher, the naïve mother, an unsympathetic bhabhi and her benevolent brother, the campus hooligans who corner our girl for no reason, the honest commissioner, a conning call girl and, of course, a bunch of corrupt cops. There’s also this mentally unstable character who conveniently becomes Akira’s ‘henchwoman’ gaining sanity as and when required. People die like mosquitos. One of them fall of a chair and, guess what, DIES. Huh, whatever.
Given Murugadoss’ goodwill down south, the film has a top-notch technical crew at helm. We have AR Sreekar Prasad wielding the scissors. Though he couldn’t have done much to the drab story, the film keeps you hooked till the end. RD Rajasekhar’s photography is apt and oozes a Tamil film vibe all through. Another Sonakshi Sinha-flick, Tevar was photographed in a similar fashion. Vishal-Shekhar’s music is quite good with Sunidhi Chauhan’s Badal being a gem. Dileep Subramanian’s sound sets in great mood. Production design by Matchstix is worth admiring. Dialogues by Karan Singh Rathore are occasionally riveting and last but not the least – action choreography by “Anl” Arasu is bound to blow your mind.
For a film that’s technically as proficient, performances don’t quite match up. Sonakshi Sinha puts in a brilliant effort, looks her part and fights like a pro. Still, there’s a limit to which she can salvage a badly penned character. Anurag Kashyap makes a killing in Akira’s most exciting person. One can call it borderline hammy but Kashyap’s performance is one of the film’s highlights. Konkona Sen Sharma has that babe in the woods face all through. It doesn’t help she plays a heavily pregnant, honest policewoman. Women empowerment again? Spare us, Koko. We would rather wait for your directorial venture. Amit Sadh is wasted. Smita Jaykar doesn’t have much to do but boy, we are glad she is back. Supporting artists does nothing to elevate the proceedings.
Two years ago, came Pradeep Sarkar’s Mardaani starring Rani Mukerji. Armed with a good script and even better performances, the film had girl power on full swing. She walked the slo-mo hero walk, audience applauded in unison and the producers laughed all their way to the bank. What they couldn’t do without was a title that didn’t propagate misogyny. It unintentionally reiterated physical fight to be a man’s forte. Given the film’s strong content, our audiences were kind enough to overlook this point. With Akira, the filmmaker indeed gives her kicks, punches and punchlines galore. Yet, Akira sadly ends up the goddess of sacrifice. Why? Her revealing the truth can burn Mumbai down. I’d have loved to see Akira fight and rescue the city – all by herself. Almost like a comic book superwoman. Before we get there, we don’t even know what goes through her mind – even as she protests for her professor in the middle of a lathi charge or when she makes a small talk with a handsome lad. What is she even made of?
Depth is the word Murugadoss ought to Google. Pronto.