By: Samar Khan
This was a weirdly terrible movie.
How else do you describe a film that emphasizes how valuable disabled people still are to society while being an action film starring an outcast in school going up against corrupt cops, one of whom is played by the best frigging director working in India today?
As the title states, this is a Sonakshi Sinha film. It’s strange, of all of the top actresses in Bollywood, she’s been given more “female empowerment” roles even in films that one would classify as straight up “masala” style. While Sinha never actually has displayed the acting chops of a Priyanka Chopra or a Deepika Padukone, her role in Lootera has always convinced me that she has the requisite talent but just needs a script to do her talent justice. Akira is a mixed bag in that regard, giving us a film that’s half action-based and filled with commentary on topics such as treatment of deaf and mentally handicapped citizens in India and how the system exists to keep the population oppressed.
So, how good was Akira? Due to its innate weirdness and numerous issues, this review places it squarely below average. It has its moderate highs and its numerous mediocre moments and fails to prove that it is a deep flick in any way.
Akira’s story is simple. We have a girl that was raised by a man that taught hearing impaired children. One day, she sticks up to a group of male bullies who had committed an acid attack (serious issues in India and Pakistan, unfortunately) on a female classmate of Sinha’s titular character, Akira. Seeking retribution, she goes to beat said bullies, with the ensuing altercation seeing the bully throw acid in his own face and the police siding with “privileged rich” boy and remanding the “poor, violent” girl to a detention centre for three years. Cue a fast forward where she arrives back, moves to a metropolitan city with her mother and brother and eventually falls afoul of crooked cops embroiled in a blackmail scheme.
As the paragraph above illustrates, the story won’t win any awards for originality. What it will garner attention for, is its bold focus on society’s mistreatment of the poor relative to their rich counterparts and the favouritism towards the male gender that is disproportionately prevalent in India compared to Western society.
So, on to the group of cops that decide that Akira is the bane of their existence. Led by ACP Rane, played in a deliciously hammy performance by Anurag Kashyap of Gangs of Wasseypur and Black Friday fame, a quartet of crooked cops kill and mutilate all who stand in the way of them running off with millions of dollars. They resort to false imprisonment, torture and have our lead character committed to a mental asylum to be delivered electric shocks as a means of resolving their issues. They are an interesting group but their interactions with Akira and anyone not within the group are sometimes difficult to watch, with nary an A-list calibre actor between them. The script doesn’t do them much of a favour either way, with the villains being saddled with some downright atrocious and “villainous” lines. The filmmakers didn’t even try to make the police act or speak decently at any point, clearly indicating their bias against the Indian Criminal Justice System.
The plot was utterly ridiculous in the final act, with completely random revelations thrown in to advance the story and director A.R. Murgadoss unable to decide whether his script (if he even had one) was a Bollywood action flick or an exposè on the Indian justice system’s corrupt nature.
This was a difficult segment to write about. For starters, Sonakshi Sinha was fine as our lead. She wasn’t called upon to carry any scenes with dramatic flair nor to be comedic. However, for someone that has seen her display some high quality acting chops in films such as the aforementioned Lootera, it baffles me as to how she still settles for plain average roles when she can reasonably be expected to take meatier roles that can pay off come award season. Her performance in the scenes following electric shock therapy were very well done but were far too limited in total screen time to really allow the rest of her performance to be elevated.
The supporting cast (which was fairly limited) was all over the place. Beginning with Kashyap (full disclosure: this man is easily my favourite director outside of Hollywood today), it doesn’t get worse but it certainly does not improve upon his performance either. Kashyap, as Rane, plays that hammy, sleazy cop that is always baked and twirling his moustache. You know the type I refer to, the ones that you spot on screen with that creepy handlebar moustache and leering grin and immediately understand what they are portraying? That’s Kashyap to a tee. While the role is completely clichéd, he still shines in certain moments and certainly made me feel that he wouldn’t be too out of place as a side-villain in one of his acclaimed gangster films.
Complementing Kashyap are Konkona Sen Sharma as ACP Rabiya (completely wasted here, her role being a far cry from the brilliant performance delivered in 2015 hit Talvar), Amit Sadh (also wasted after a promising performance in Sultan) and whoever filled out the remaining corrupt cops. Suffice it to say, literally, none of these performances are worth writing home about.
If I told you that I don’t remember a single track, background score or theme from the film, would you be surprised based upon the rest of this review? The film lacked any notable song, which was a shame following in the footsteps of Rustom which gave us an Arijit Singh song AND an Atif Aslam duet.
The score was a huge letdown. For an action film, the beat downs and scene transitions generally are accompanied by a score that dictates the overall quality of said scenes and, in essence, the film. Not once could I pinpoint being wowed by a scene, which can be explained by both a lousy soundtrack/score and action that wasn’t fun to watch at all.
It really annoyed me to see such talent wasted on a film like this. Konkona Sen Sharma has become one of Bollywood’s most dependable dramatic actresses and is tasked with a performance where she neither smiles, scowls or even does anything. She was just…there.
A.R. Murugadoss has been hit-and-miss (mostly miss) since launching Ghajini (itself a remake of Hollywood classic Memento) all those years ago. He’s mainly worked in South Indian cinema since and hasn’t set the world on fire at all. Here, his shortcomings are on full display. Presented with the concept of a uniquely original take on the treatment of the less privileged and sick of India, he instead takes a while to decide he would prefer to make an over-the-top prototypical Bollywood action flick and STILL fails at delivering excitement. An action film’s script and sound shortcomings can traditionally be forgiven if the action sequences are up-to-par but that is never the case here. Note to self: avoid A.R. Murugadoss films from now on.
So, after all of that, how was the film? The concept was original, Sinha and Kashyap were commendable in terms of what they delivered but the film as a whole had far too many issues to be anything more than a time-pass recommendation. Go into it with no expectations and even then, don’t expect anything more than a confused film that takes 2 hours to find itself and still fail to define itself.
+ Sonakshi Sinha (when the script even shows her on screen)
+ Anurag Kashyap’s “chewing the scenery” performance
+ Underlying concept of the story
– Failure to explore said concept
– Inability of director to decide what sort of film this is
– Waste of Sinha, Konkona Sen Sharma and Sadh
– No exciting action sequences (in an action film)
– Terrible soundtrack
We here at The Film Lawyers have awarded the pointless Naam Hai Akira with a grade of F (3.5/10).