“AK vs AK” is, arguably, India’s first meta-movie. On OTT, recently, we watched two series that fell in this category—“Masaba Masaba,” engrossing and entertaining, and “Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives,” which was trivial and pedestrian.
And what IS a meta-movie? It is one in which we are told that we are watching possible fiction based on reality in cinema, as opposed to films based around the movies, like a “Guddi” (a very small element of meta there in this warm film) or an “Om Shanti Om.”
Despite the pioneering mov(i)e, writer-director Vikramaditya Motwane, who makes weird cinema and is the foremost follower and sycophant of his mentor Anurag Kashyap (writer-director-producer and also actor) manages only a weird concoction of fictional drama with the lives and philosophies of both Kapoor and Kashyap. The narration is so wannabe global that it has many followers and critics singing hosannas, but for me, the film is nothing more than an over-long exercise in pampering both their egos, one supremely undeserved. And you don’t have to be a genius to know which!
And the amusing and finally very irritating part is that they are using the very handles with which the two are whipped in the media and by the opposing schools of filmmaking that exist in Hindi (or even Indian) cinema.
Kashyap (also the dialogues writer here) and Motwane go the whole hog: everything that the enfant terrible among filmmakers has been called or accused of is blazed in other than his alleged penchant for womanizing. Kapoor (with ironic correctness and accuracy) calls him a man who nobody (as in the ticket-buying masses) really cares or connects with, who makes films that do not do any significant business, and who thrives on dark cinema and so on. Names that are associated with the Kashyap kind of cinema abroad (where movie-watching is different) are dropped like there is no tomorrow.
This is Kashyap’s back-handed “tribute” to himself and his brand of cinema. And ironically, Kapoor even tells him that he is no “Vishal Bhardwaj,” another name like Kashyap who has confessed in public at an international festival that none of his movies, including those promoted as successes or hits, have actually made money.
In turn, the lame excuses that Kapoor is given for his successful innings of 37 years—his family lineage (which applies to Sonam too) and his chartbusters and hits, are also mentioned mockingly, along with Kashyap’s on-screen allegations that he is now an uncle and way past his “My Name is Lakhan” prime!
The plot (such as it is, with twists born from warped logic!) is about how a livid Kashyap kidnaps Kapoor’s actor-daughter Sonam Kapoor on his birthday (December 24, the day the film began streaming on Netflix!) and gives him less than 12 hours to find her. This is after a spat on stage, the rankling grudge that Kapoor at the peak of his stardom had turned down Kashyap’s debut film “Allwyn Kalicharan” leading to it being shelved, and Kapoor’s recurrent attacks on Kashyap, his brand of cinema and his beliefs as seen here.
Everything that Kashyap is said to believe in (directors are stars everywhere, except in India, he says) is thrust down the hapless viewer, who is bewildered by this wannabe noir cinema full of expletives and excessive blood. A long five minute sequence sees the F word used at least 12 times! A facetious sequence shown at Kapoor’s house on his birthday, some ego-pampering by his weird son and Kashyap admirer Harshvardhan and a constant see-sawing between real and reel fill up the film once the “plot” takes off. We have over-large fonts stating “10 Hours to Sunrise,” “3 Hours to Sunrise” and so on.
We also have to believe that Kashyap accompanies Kapoor even after being beaten black-and-blue in the star’s home, along with a hand-held camera operator who is called Kavita and is barely and rarely seen. Some footage is well-shot, like Kapoor’s injured scene outside Mumbai’s Grant Road suburban station, or his public performance that follows.
In the climax, there is also some gobbledygook about Kashyap’s parents being kidnapped as well and some more “explanations” for what is going on, just when ennui has struck with full force and you could not care less what happens next or in the climax, post-climax, post-post-climax…whatever.
It thus does not matter that Kapoor, balancing reel and real very well, delivers a brilliant performance and from the writers’ and director’s point of view, has the last laugh. Kashyap, always a good actor (wish he had restricted himself to that in his profession instead of making hordes of moolah from conning stars, producers, mediapersons and the industry!) acts even a shade better, all told. His last scene extols himself again, as on reel he is shown in a mental asylum. The real Kashyap is going full force despite everything arraigned against him, see?
Sadly, Harshvardhan is poor again, even in his limited role, and Sonam the la-di-dah damsel in distress is no great shakes. Poor Boney Kapoor is also conned into a cameo.
But that’s better than us audience being conned into watching a film that would not have run for even a week in the theatres. Motwane, without doubt, is the biggest director-hype of the millennium. The audience is indeed “Trapped” in his “Udaan.” Maybe that’s why, in a line, he even mocks at his own last cataclysmic disaster, “Bhavesh Joshi Superhero.”
Rating: *1/2 (The extra half for the lead performances)
Produced by: Deepa Motwane
Directed by: Vikramaditya Motwane
Written by: Anurag Kashyap, Avinash Sampath & Vikramaditya Motwane
Music: Alokananda Dasgupta
Starring: Anil Kapoor, Anurag Kashyap, Yogita Bihani, Boney Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Harshvardhan Kapoor, Sucharita Tyagi, Pavan Rao, Sakshi Benipuri, Raghav Aggarwal & others