Sai Kumar Manasali, the brain behind Celluloidtales.com had asked me to come up with a write-up after watching the trailer of AK vs AK. However, due to the crazy work schedules that I had at my day job, couldn't write anything on the trailer. The idea got me hooked on to it though. A film about a filmmaker and an actor/star? What is not interesting about it? Without further ado, let's dive right in.
The most interesting aspect of the film is the one that is the least cared about: The Disclaimer. It is as far more important to this film than it is for any other film. "This film is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to characters living or dead is purely coincidental and unintentional" I was reminded of a review of The Dirty Picture where the reviewer called the disclaimer "chickening-out disclaimer". In complete contrast to that, this disclaimer here provides us with the lens with which we should watch the film.
The film is about once-a-superstar, Anil Kapoor (played by Anil Kapoor) and a dark filmmaker Anurag Kashyap (played by Anurag Kashyap) who battle it out (on-screen?) on their personal and voyeuristic (note the camera that runs throughout the film) journeys. Other characters, Harshvardhan Kapoor (as himself), Sonam Kapoor (as herself), Boney Kapoor (need I say more?), add up brilliantly to enhance the blurring lines of the reel and real-life that the director wants to show in this film.
This film is part-documentary, part-commentary (tongue-in-cheek though), part-meta and part commercial film. The documentary part is kind of on-the-nose with explicit reference in dialogues and the camera that follows the characters for the most part of the film. (I am finding it difficult to write this review as the reality gets really blurry due to the same-name, the same-cast scenario here. Every cinematic noun and adjective take up an unintended deeper meaning here). The commentary comes in brilliant bits of dialogues and colourful staging of both the AKs. My favourite bit is right at the beginning where one of the characters spills water on another's shoes and what follows is as real as shit can get about celebrities.
The meta is mainly the camera angles of the reel "cinematographer" played by Yogita Bihani. You can feel the eagerness of the documentary filmmaker when she tries to capture some moments, cinematically. Then comes my favourite part - the commercial aspects. The writing of the film is so solid that the typical commercial tropes like the dance and the songs are so intricately and brilliantly woven into the script that when they occur on the screen it gets a smile across your face.
With the way profanities are used in this film, I was kind of surprised to see that this is directed by Vikramidtya Motwane and not Anurag Kashyap. The references to each other (Mr. India and Gangs of Wasseypur) are as narcissistic as they are a reflection of how nasty celebrities'... erm... for want of a better word... cat-fights can get.
The positioning of the film is that of a Dark Comedy thriller and it stays true to that genre to the most part of it. Even while deploying the comedy, the scene and the situation were very mainstream but the dialogues that are sharp and quirky made them very off-beat and smart. Watch out for a stretch where Harshvardhan tries to impress Anurag Kashyap and he looks like, "I can roll my eyes only so loudly!"
The film has its share of sentiment too. And that is filmed in a very impressive and a shocking way. There is a point where Anil Kapoor gets up on the stage to ask for the crowd's help and the crowd breaks into a chant of "Naach! Naach!" meaning dance. And he does. What more can be so sad for a star/artist that even when you are genuinely asking for help, you need to give them what they need in order to get what you need? The thing in need can be replaced with value for money and success.
The commentary and the near-true reflection of the sorry state of film journalism (with their insatiable penchant for mouthwatering headlines like "Water causes fire"), the media and the celebrity life is chilling.
However, with all these brilliant high points, the film starts to lose steam towards the end. With the apparent twist in the script - quite literally - the experience starts to get tiring. I am reminded of the so-called twists in Blackmale where the cheating twist is more than just deployed. It's exploited and the result is an underwhelming film. It is exactly what happens here too. Probably this is where the need to be mainstream takes over respecting the intelligence of the audience.
The ending of the film, with another trope - a hint at a sequel - is equally unrewarding and lets down all the adrenaline that's built up in the first half of the film. This makes me wonder - Is it possible that the mainstreaming was done in order to have a run time more than that of a short film? Because sans the twist at the end, the film would have ended in just over 45 minutes.
The film is replete with references and jibes at the audience and the film fraternity alike. Watch out for a scene where Anurag Kashyap is called everything other than himself - He is even Madhur Bhandarkar at a point! In my opinion, his lowest emotional point is where a character asks him, "Kaun, Dabangg wala Kashyap" (Who, the Kashyap who made Dabangg?).
A clever film, to begin with, this falls into the pitiful zone of those films that trip on its own cleverness.