An evening in Jodhpur. A busy street with students walking home, some waiting for the bus. Two boys inconspicuously eye a passing girl. She’s pretty. Dressed in pink. Her eyes are burning with rage. Moments later, the boys are chasing her on a bike. One has a bottle in his hand. Fumes ooze out of it.
And then the girl is screaming and clutching her melting face.
The bystanders have better things to do than help. A pre-teen girl (Akira) is the only witness who cares. She vows revenge. With her father’s encouragement, she learns karate. It takes months of training, but she succeeds. And lands herself in a correctional facility for her trouble. Sixteen years later, Akira’s life seems to have returned to normal.
While the boys splash acid on the girl, AR Murugadoss ensures that the screams are sufficiently blood-curdling. But, something is amiss. The slow song in the background isn’t particularly melancholic. Just ill-fitting.
The victim, once a girl with flawless skin and a warm smile, has scars and a melted eye to accompany the rest of her life. But this isn’t her story. This is the story of the girl who took revenge, and how that naïve revenge is her fatal flaw.
In Akira, the good times pass quickly. The bad times stagger and drag. And Akira (Sonakshi Sinha) cannot catch a break. Every time her situation improves, she runs into more plot convolutions, and more unfortunate coincidences. Beaten in nearly every scene, with people throwing daggers at her for no reason, Akira suffers. And, for some reason, chooses to suffer silently. People walk all over her. Through all this, her naivety remains intact.
It’s like Murugadoss decided to do a GRR Martin: she suffers like Sansa and kicks butt like Arya, but lacks vision and intellect.
Akira is being promoted as a woman-centric film where a woman can hand out and take a beating. In reality, the film panders to an old Indian cinema trick: the woman’s “real” strength lies in her ability to turn into a sacrificial lamb; for the “greater good of the nation”. Akira could easily have been that girl who stood up for herself. Instead, she thinks of herself as a battered martyr, nailed to the cross, sacrificing herself to protect the city from communal unrest.
Mother India meets Jesus Christ and we’re left with a very skewed version of women’s empowerment.
What really works for the film is that Anurag Kashyap plays a character straight out of an Anurag Kashyap film. He is vicious and calculating; the kind of man who would let others take the fall for his nefarious activities. Whenever he’s on screen, he has a cigarette in his hand, a witty retort on his lips, and a perpetual lascivious grin on his face. You find yourself feeling thankful that, just this once, a villain in a Murugadoss film chose to hurt with words instead of actions.
Kashyap as ACP Rane is that good.
The smoking, though, is excessive. Almost as if the character is deliberately blowing smoke at the screen. Just to annoy the Censor Board for all the cuts they’ve demanded in all Kashyap’s films.
Konkona Sen Sharma as the good and righteous cop makes the most of a minor role. The only subtle character in the film, she holds her cards close. Does she know who the killers are? Does she care or does she have plans of her own? Until the end, we won’t know what lies underneath that neutral expression and monotone.
We also don’t why her character had to be heavily pregnant. A Kahaani inspired move, perhaps, to show that nothing will stop her from finding the truth.
The months of training Sonakshi Sinha put into this role shows in every little crouch and every clenched fist. The fight sequences are convincing, especially because her kicks and punches aren’t exaggerated likes the ones in Murugadoss’ Holiday or Ghajini.
Murugadoss, who missed the Rio memo about how great it is to fight like a girl, was proud of Sinha because she ‘fought like a man‘ in the film. But, really, Sinha fights like a girl – and it looks great.
With Akira, Murugadoss follows an old template: a noble character with an existential crisis desperately seeks revenge. Plus some superhuman strength, an evil villain who finds loopholes in every situation, and a good cop with an impeccable sense of timing. Also, the lead’s sidekick stays unnoticed despite doing a lot in the name of friendship.
Nevertheless, Akira is not boring. The film is fast-paced and easy on the intellect. There are no redundant songs and gratuitous romances. Best watched on a Sunday afternoon.
The Akira review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.