Akira is a remake of an action-packed crime thriller that not only stays faithful to the original, but also manages to topple it, thanks to the better production values and the upgraded cast and crew that packs quite a punch.
For anyone who’s already familiar with the original, there’s hardly any element of surprise here. The story line and the overall proceedings are almost the same from the original — Mouna Guru — with the gender reversal of the protagonist being the only major change.
What made the original a significant watch apart from the overall treatment and the unpredictable turns was how it takes an interesting look at how the system — namely the police force — can make a person’s life a complete mess just for being at the wrong place at the wrong time and shows the lengths to which they can go to cover up their brutalities.
In the remake, Murugadoss goes for fast paced narration with a more no nonsense approach, especially by watering down the romantic track from the original that elongated the running time.
Murugadoss’s decision to bring in a transgender sidekick to the protagonist for the most part of the second hour, in a mainstream movie, without passing any indirect judgement regarding their orientation was welcoming.
Technically too, it’s a huge improvement over the original with RD Rajasekhar’s beautifully captured visuals and Sreekar Prasad’s fine cuts that hardly drag.
Sonakshi seemed like she was getting stuck in a limbo with all those damsel-in-distress roles that flaunt only her attire and assets. But she takes a welcome break from all those stereotypes in Akira, where she nails it wholeheartedly with her remarkable performance and fiery body language, making her presence felt with elegance, while playing a hard-headed lady named Akira — which means ‘graceful strength’ in Sanskrit — with no tolerance for bullying.
Konkona Sen Sharma was unsurprisingly brilliant as Rabia, the shrewd and honest cop who is duty bound even while she’s carrying — just like how the character was etched in the original. The supporting cast too was fine.
But the man of the hour is definitely none other than the master filmmaker, Anurag Kashyap. He just stuns you and steals the thunder away from everyone with his terrific screen presence as the ruthless and reckless cop or rather say a pot-smoking rogue.
The villain’s unapologetic characterization was brilliant in the original too, but Kashyap brings in a unique kind of wickedness to his portrayal — especially with his towering dialogue delivery — that makes it absolutely special. Truly, a menacing villain you would love to spew your hatred upon.
On the whole, despite retaining many of the clichéd elements from its original, Akira still manages to be an extremely engaging watch that’s refreshing for its winning cast and also turns out to be an even better final product than its original was, thanks to Murugadoss.
Akira has managed to get a lot done. It finally puts a woman in the lead in an action movie, and Sonakshi Sinha is utterly convincing in the role, acting beautifully and conveying emotions subtly. She is also fantastic in the action sequences. But the film shows us exactly how much of a path breaker it is having a woman as an action lead, even if we might have overlooked the significance. Life is just different for women than men. Akira (Sonakshi Sinha) overcomes obstacles and defeats villains from a young age, and can defend herself with superhuman strength: just like action heroes are supposed to be. But when she fights back against a villain who is threatening girls and viciously attacking them in her community, she is sent to a correctional home, the stigma of which persists in her adult life. When she fights against corrupt and brutal policemen whose saga she inadvertently gets involved in, they institutionalise her to silence her, claiming she is delusional. At the mental asylum, we see her struggle in close detail, and we lose faith, beginning to feel instead the pains of a woman being silenced by the system and there being no alternative, no way out.
Akira just suffers so much. Her own family begins to disbelieve her; she has nobody to talk to. Even towards the climax, she does not get the moment of redemption for her struggle that usually characterises climactic fight sequences. She has to suffer without any superhuman victory (to drive home the point, this portion in the film features imagery comparing her to Christ, putting herself up on the cross).
This feels true as much as it feels unfair. The harrowing nature of her continuous suffering is familiar to every woman – women cannot fight against the system or protest injustice or defeat their antagonists by sheer violence, the way male action heroes can. This film almost seems to show what happens if we try and make women take action heroes’ place.
Sonakshi Sinha, Anurag Kashyap, Konkona Sen Sharma, the supporting cast – all of them deliver pitch perfect and moving performances, reminding one of the release last year around this time – Drishyam. But where the sole female cop in Drishyam – Tabu – has control over the system, Konkona Sen Sharma fights the system till the penultimate point, when the system defeats her. The screen here is filled with women and female presence, but the overall feeling is that the system only offers them so much. Even when they fight male violence, the violence wins at the end. Realistic or overly sordid? With no cinematic escape, Akira marks an uneasy beginning for female action movies. Akira is powerful and uncommonly gifted at fighting even the worst violence, but even she cannot win somethings. The film is a harrowing reminder of just how far from picture perfect life as a woman is.
Thank you for writing in to Film Companion. This week’s release are Baar Baar Dekho and Freaky Ali. We would love to have you review that for us.
1. Send all entries to firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Entries will be moderated by The Film Companion editorial team.
3. The review should not exceed 500 words.
4. Reviews that are abusive will not be considered.
5. Please write complete sentences. Abbreviations and SMS lingo will not be accepted.
6. We will accept entries till Monday, 12th September.