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After an undistinguished pandemic year, Indian cinema closes out 2020 with a postmodern surprise, at once nifty and nasty. Shot under the radar, and announced mere days ago, Vikramaditya Motwane’s mock-doc proposes a seismic smackdown between two industry figureheads. In one corner, Anil Kapoor, cuddly patriarch of one of Bollywood’s most illustrious clans. In the other, Anurag Kashyap, film-maker and longtime critic of movie nepotism, going a fiendish extra mile here by kidnapping Anil’s daughter and giving dad 10 hours to find her. Kashyap, by orchestrating this round of meta hide-and-seek, intends to generate “the most dangerous hostage thriller in the history of cinema” – spoken like a true showman.
Bollywood postmodernism is nothing new: Shah Rukh Khan stalked himself through the ultra-knowing Fan four years ago. What Kashyap and Motwane bring to the genre, assisted by Netflix’s hands-off approach to censorship, is a sharper edge. Motwane and co-writer Avinash Sampath slyly reference Taken, but a closer narrative precedent would be 1996’s The Fan, with Kashyap in the De Niro role of marginalised malcontent and his schemes updated for an image-saturated age. At one point Kapoor dashes into a police station, which rapidly fills up with officers keener to snap selfies with the actor than hear his complaint; when they do, it’s met with applause – the assumption being that their hero is rehearsing a monologue.
As a director, Kashyap’s experiments in freshening up the Hindi mainstream have met variable success but here, with Motwane calling the shots, the provocation works. As a thriller, it scarcely lets up and provides no easy out: Kapoor continually has to hurdle his own public persona and his tormentors home in on the cracks forming in his “Mr India” facade. It’s a little inside-baseball, maybe – the more you know these men’s careers, the more you’ll enjoy it – and neither AK manages to address the role of women in this industry tussle, save as pawns in a boys’ game.
Still, this is your one chance this Christmas to see a major star and director going at one another’s throats – and a timely reminder that Indian cinema remains capable of venturing grippingly off-piste.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: AK vs AK review – ingenious meta-feud of Bollywood heavyweights | Film