AK vs AK Review: A Jhakaas Roast Of The Not-So-Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Celebs And Their Audience
For someone who is obsessed with and reviews movies and shows for a living, I’ve learnt to temper my expectations. I know that I cannot expect Coolie No. 1 to offer up a profound social commentary on the class divide. And I was very well prepared for Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives to be a reality show more scripted than a scripted show. When I saw the trailer of Netflix’s AK vs AK, which pits Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap as themselves against each other, in a film directed by Vikramaditya Motwane, to say I had expectations was an understatement.
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I mean, if they wanted to make a film about a crazy, snubbed directed going to great lengths to teach a superstar a lesson, while getting gainful employment out of it, they could have pulled a Fan. You know, built a fictional world that mirrored Kapoor and Kashyap’s real lives, given them made-up names and added mirch masala to it. But no, they chose to set the film in their real worlds, as is. So you’ve got actual family members as part of the equation, like Sonam Kapoor, who gets kidnapped by Kashyap, or Harshvardhan Kapoor, making an appearance. Even the actor’s staff and his home are authentic. Their triggering fight too happens at a MAMI (Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image) event hosted by Sucharita Tyagi, which isn’t some lame mockery of the real event, like how award shows or talk shows are shown in movies.
The streets of Mumbai, which Anil Kapoor drives through to find his daughter before time runs out, are real and recognisable. And not just the big landmark ones, like the Grant Road station or the Sea Link. I actually think I spotted a local Versova bar I frequent in one of the shots as well as the annoying traffic that is always around Film City in Goregaon. And that right there, is the biggest appeal of AK vs AK for me. They’ve steered the ship as close to reality as they possibly could’ve. And the result is an engaging, entertaining thriller ride that you cannot miss a moment of.
If you’ve seen he trailer, you know all there is to know about the plot without it getting spoiler-y. Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap are their respective selves—a Bollywood superstar who and an acclaimed director. They have a very public spat, you know the kind where celeb egos clash over insecurities of who’s more famous. Pretty soon, the media does it what it does best—sensationalise the whole thing. And the industry does what it does best—take sides, which is for the most part, Kapoor’s because hello? Insider! Cornered, Kashyap makes a plan—to kidnap Sonam Kapoor, and put her father and his nemesis, Anil Kapoor on a timer to find her, before something very bad happens to her.
Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap play themselves, but in a twisted way!
I would love to decode every single aspect of their real life personas that they’ve twisted for their reel versions, but I feel like that would take the fun away from your watch. But to sum it up, not just the AKs but even other people who we see in the film are all playing hyped up, exaggerated, almost negative versions of themselves. In fact, they’re playing exactly who the trolls online think that Bollywood celebrities are like—shallow, arrogant, immoral and crazy.
So we have Anil Kapoor asserting his superstardom and seeming very frivolous at some points. We’ve got Anurag Kashyap playing a total madman who’d got to any lengths for his craft. And we’ve got the common people, us, worshipping them, admiring them and even revelling in their misery at one point. Both Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap do a fantastic job of selling their characters, which feel real and satirical at the same time. I thought at some points the constant use of abuses and ‘fuck’ got too overpowering and interrupted my viewing experience. But I know it is a meta commentary on the climax so I’m going to let that one slide.
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AK vs AK never drops the ball on its thrill, humour or attention to detail, making it an engaging ride!
When Anurag Kashyap is explaining the rules of the game to a frazzled Anil Kapoor, he tells him everything that happens from hereon out will be real. He’ll bleed for real, he’ll cry for real, but he won’t laugh for real, because there won’t be anything to laugh about.
Well, I disagree, sir, because the film offers up plenty of humour in varying shades of light to dark for us, the audience, to laugh about! A huge credit for that goes to the clever dialogues that are rooted in the Bollywood we are familiar with. So you’ve got a superstar being forced into a barter by a hotel manager, where he gives him access to CCTV footage in exchange for the actor promoting their Christmas offers on his Instagram. Or there’s the constant roasting of each other’s careers and personality traits. Anurag trolls Anil’s ‘budhaape mean jawaani’ image while playing father roles in Dil Dhadakne Do, while the latter remarks how the director’s film maybe critically acclaimed but they’re not really massy, especially if you remove the abuses from it!
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I think my favourite parts were when a battered and bruised Anil Kapoor is questioning taxi drivers across Mumbai, and despite how he looks, they still want a selfie with him. Oh, and when a policeman identifies Anurag as Madhur Bhandarkar! I was expecting this treatment in the film, but I was afraid that it might get too caricaturish or exaggerated. But thankfully, that never happened. It all felt extremely organic because that’s probably what would’ve happened.
I loved the little details embedded in the movie. I can’t elaborate much on it, because spoilers, but keep an eye out for things like name-tags on uniforms, the actors’ mannerisms, the shots of both Anurag Kashyap and Anil Kapoor’s homes, the reflections in the mirrors, and you’ll see how they all collectively add to the realism of the film. Motwane has managed to manufacture this feel of the film with plenty of long shots, like a particular chase sequence through Grant Road station that is one single shot of some 5-7 minutes. The film is shot with a handheld camera, and since you’ve got the cameraperson actually written into the film, we’re shown glimpses of Yogita Bihani’s reflection, as she holds the camera and follows both AKs around.
AK vs AK is one of those movies where you can actually hear your the sound of your brain working things out, you know? You’re trying to take the details of the celebrity’s life all in, trying to separate fact from fiction. You’re trying to catch the jokes, the truth behind the dark humour, and at the same time, you’re trying to figure out how this is going to pan out. I love those kind of films that keep you working and at the edge of your seat because even though you have multiple very good ideas about where the film is headed, you’re excited to see which one have the writers gone with and what the director has done with it. And AK vs AK has plenty of those moments!
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AK vs AK is the ultimate troll, and it is out here to roast everyone!
AK vs AK feels like a clever, satirical commentary on fame, the famous and the people who make them famous. The film manages to troll not just the actors, the film industry, nepotism and celebrity culture but also the audience that consumes all of it. We all see these celeb fights and Twitter banter and become so involved in these starry fights that we start fighting amongst ourselves over something that could very well be fake.
The film starts off with this very premise, and has us believe that people ruling Bollywood are happy pulling the strings and letting the audience think they’re king. But when the film ends, the roles are starkly reversed. We come fact to face with the cruel fickle nature of fame. You realise that the audience is indeed the king. I mean, see for yourself. If the audience does not go into theatres in the next few months, the industry could collapse staggeringly. And would either AK be able to survive that?
The film, at every step, manages to flatter all its audiences—the industry insiders, the outsiders and the audience. In fact, the very final scene before the credits is going to make a certain political party’s social media army very happy. But it leaves you with quite a meta question: Who’s got the real power here, fellas?
Verdict: AK vs AK is a much better meta commentary on Bollywood lives than Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives
In one of his interviews, Anurag Kashyap said that the film is full of half-truths. And that is correct.
I love meta narratives. Some of my favourites, like The French Mistake in Supernatural Season 6, go full on meta with their stories, which gives the writers much new space to play around and piques audience curiosity. The result then, if handled well, can be quite a piece of content. While the writers and director Vikramaditya Motwane get full props for this entertaining idea, I think it would’ve been impossible if both Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap wouldn’t have been open to this level of self-mockery. They did what a Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives couldn’t do. The latter was a reality show that was totally fictional. And AK vs AK is a pretty decent attempt at fictional realism. Jhakaas, Netflix! You finally got it. And stick to this formula, bhidu.
AK vs AK is currently streaming on Netflix.