Aks

The promos started last month. Amitabh sitting on a throne, looking devious and menacing. Raveena doing a Demi-Moorish strip-tease. Amitabh cavorting with Nandita Das. A couple of weeks later, Manoj Bajpai’s visage entered the promos and the prominent “fall-through-the-waterfall” scene featuring Amitabh and Bajpai was incorporated. News started filtering in, that Amitabh was playing a negative character. My expectations were heightened. Hoping to see Amitabh in something different, something interesting, made me actually want to see the film as quickly as possible. I hadn’t felt like this about a movie for a long time; no, not even about Lagaan.
Aurora, a stone’s throw away from home, was to screen the film starting day before yesterday. I went on Monday evening, when bookings open, only to be told that all shows were already sold out. On Friday, WFM and I decided on the spur of the moment to see the film. We got scalper’s tickets for the stalls, at three times the regular price; balcony tickets were not available at any cost. I had forgotten that the stalls in Aurora still have uncomfortable wooden seats and mosquitoes, but what the hell!
I never learn. But from this time on, I am going to try and firmly stick to a resolution I had made a couple of years ago. I will never go see a Hindi film on the first day without assessing the reviews on Sunday or talking to people who have seen it. Time is precious and to waste it on a bad film is such a bloody tragedy.
Aks reprises the usual problems with Amitabh films of the last five-ten years. Amitabh is very good, he is in virtually all the scenes but the movie is awful.
To give the film its due (more like finding saving graces), the cinematography is excellent. The story concept is also very interesting. But the film is too long, drags in places and fails completely. In brief (and not to spoil things for those die-hard Amitabh fans who might still want to see the film), Amitabh (Manu Verma) is an aging cop, a la Clint Eastwood in “In the Line of Fire”. He fails to prevent the assassination of a minister (Amol Palekar) by Manoj Bajpai (Raghavan), a paid assassin and psychopath. Manu goes after Raghavan and gets him well before the interval, in a brilliantly done montage in a forest and waterfall. During this time, we meet all the main characters; Raveena playing Raghavan’s girl-friend, looking very sexy and appealing; Nandita Das playing Manu’s young wife and K K Raina playing Raghavan’s younger brother. Just before Raghavan is to face the gallows, Manu goes to him to offer him a life sentence in return for information about his contractors. Somehow, Raghavan gets hold of a police-officer’s gun and there is a face-off (a la John Woo); both shoot, Raghavan dies and his soul enters Manu’s, who starts behaving like Raghavan.
From then on the film goes into a free-fall. It becomes tedious, irritating and at times incomprehensible. I developed a headache and almost fell asleep a couple of times. The audience behind me was also so irritated that they actually booed the film at times, and in a scene when Manu starts crying on Nandita Das’ shoulder, the audience laughed. These were the final nails in the film’s coffin.
Maybe if Aks was a two-hour film, instead of the tedious 31/2 odd hours that it currently is, with at least three songs removed, and a little laid-back on the hysterics, it would have worked as a taut psychological thriller. As it stands today, Aks is yucks, Aks sucks, Aks…(you can find your own combination).

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