Director: AR Murugadoss
Cast: Sonakshi Sinha, Anurag Kashyap, Konkona Sen Sharma, Amit Sadh, Atul Kulkarni
About 20 minutes into Sonakshi Sinha's Akira, there's a protest sequence in front of the Asiatic Steps in Mumbai. The sequence encompasses all the elements from a college protest - a mob of students, a few havaldars, a nostril-flaring sub-inspector animatedly yelling into the walkie-talkie about how he needs tear gas, stones, and finally a gunshot that disperses the crowd. As the crowd is dispersed, we see Sonakshi Sinha (the hero) still seated in the middle of a now-deserted road. She walks towards the cops in slow-motion with heavily distorted electric guitars blazing in the background.
That one scene captures how director A R Murugadoss celebrates the Bollywood masala maad-dhaad brand of movies and revels in them. Belonging to Kollywood mainly, his films have never been known to tax the brains too much. He titles Akira after one of the most acclaimed directors to have walked the face of the earth, Akira Kurosawa, whose films were widely appreciated for their subtlety. Only if Murugadoss had learned the art of subtlety from Kurosawa before naming his movie on him!
Akira is anything but deft with its references. A Christ crucifying reference is communicated with a close-up of the Cross for the longest 15 seconds in the history of time, and then a character is made to mouth the words, "She sacrificed herself." Whaaaat? You don't say!
Murugadoss has never shied away from images that make us turn uncomfortably in our seats. In the director's first Hindi film Ghajini, he masterfully evokes dread by showing us the villain fiddling with the metal rod in close-up, just before he splices open the heads of the lead pair (Aamir Khan and Asin). Akira dwells on the face of a victim of an acid attack a few seconds longer than it probably should, making us feel the horror. Murugadoss executes that bit to perfection as he packages a Bollywood damsel into an action hero with the help of some smart editing, beautifully choreographed fights, and some brilliant work on the sound design, which help the audience feel each bone break and the thump of each kick.
The plot is as new as the post-expiry bread lying in your refrigerator for the past month. Akira is introduced to us in Konkona Sensharma's voice-over as 'the fearless one'. It starts in Jodhpur (where it doesn't necessarily have to start, but Murugadoss was probably looking for a change of scenery) before bringing the action to Mumbai. Akira, as a kid, stood up to an acid attacker by pouring his acid on his own face. And for that, she's sent to a remand room for three years. She comes out as this angry introvert who tries to stay away from fights 'cause things get really ugly each time she gets involved.
The best thing about the movie is Anurag Kashyap's act as the corrupt cop. Already one of the most acclaimed directors, Kashyap deliriously delivers his evil plans with a joint between his fingers. He utilises every bit of opportunity to play this despicable character and goes about it like a veteran. Only if Murugadoss had a smarter story to compliment the performance. Sonakshi Sinha makes for a competent action star, but acting-wise, she needs to step out of these formula films and take up something more cerebral.
All in all, Akira is a dumb commercial potboiler, with a superlative performance by Anurag Kashyap. Your only wish in the end is Sonakshi find material good enough to do justice to her acting abilities. She badly needs to step away from the preset Bollywood templates.