There are two bold ideas in AR Murugadoss’s remake of Santha Kumar’s Tamil movie Mouna Guru (2011), and only one of them works.
The first is to replace the hero from the original with a heroine in the Hindi version. That does not go down too well. Sonakshi Sinha has lost weight for the part but she hasn’t acquired the agility associated with a woman who is supposedly skilled at martial arts.
The other idea is to cast filmmaker Anurag Kashyap as the leader of a quartet of corrupt police officers who illegally claim a huge stash of money for themselves. Kashyap is a hoot as the grubby-handed Govind who barks out orders to his minions and casually plots the demise of nearly everybody who crosses his path. It’s not enough to save the movie, but certainly enough to guarantee more acting assignments for the director and occasional actor.
“Achcha maal, South ka lagta hai,” Govind hopefully says while dragging on a pixilated joint (one of many unnecessary censor cuts), but this remake is neither an expose of police brutality nor a vicarious-pleasure action movie.
Akira borrows ideas from several Hollywood films, and the title itself appears to be a tribute to the master Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. This is the kind of overplotted movie in which every action is spelt out in full letters, and Murugadoss goes so far as to suggest that the lead character’s name has its roots in Sanskrit. If this were a real tribute, Murugadoss would have paid better heed to Kurosawa’s ability to infuse his period samurai films with serious debates on morality. At the very least, the director would have created a heroine who has more fighting moments than seen in the trailer.
Despite the build-up, Akira is hardly an Indian Kill Bill and its heroine is no Uma Thurman. The poorly directed action scenes number a handful, with most of the 139-minute running time devoted to contrivances and convolutions that do not do justice to an interesting premise.
After having served a prison term for a juvenile crime that she was forced to commit, Akira arrives in Mumbai, depicted as a city in which every institution is conveniently in single digits, all the better to unleash coincidences and contrivances. Akira tries to lie low, but a rowdy gang of students at her college reveals her hidden skills (or their lack).
Meanwhile, Govind and his team try to dress up a crime that involves several crores of rupees. They land up at Akira’s hostel room door after a series of narrative somersaults, and throw her into a mental asylum to get her out of the way. Hovering on the sidelines is Konkana Sensharma’s pregnant police officer Rabia, lifted from the Coen brothers classic Fargo, who realises that Akira is being framed.
The moth-eaten plot has several gaping holes. Akira’s family readily accepts the diagnosis of the drugged Akira’s mental state as “recurrent persistent delusion” though they should surely know better. Govind kills whoever crosses his path, but he inexplicably lets Akira live just so that the movie has something to do after the interval. Murugadoss throws in manipulative references to acid attack victims, the disabled, and the mentally ill, but his engagement with these sections is about deep as the cuts Akira inflicts on her victims. Sonakshi Sinha does a decent job in the emotional scenes, but the movie needed somebody faster and stronger to kick higher.