Akira: breaks bones, but not stereotypes

There has been an eternal problem with many a Hindi action film with the woman at the centre. Even as these flicks claim to break the gender stereotypes—turn coy heroines into tough heroes—they actually don’t. Add A.R. Murugadoss’s Akira to that rather long list of films in which the woman pretends to, but never quite kicks serious butt, where being strong essentially means having to suffer and sacrifice.

And so we have Akira (Sonakshi Sinha) who is trained by her dad in karate than kathak, who teaches a lesson or two to the roadside goons back home in Jodhpur and ends up in the remand home for it. Trouble seems to follow her even as she carries on being a good girl. A shift to Mumbai finds her daggers drawn with college ruffians and a corrupt cop Govind Rane (Anurag Kashyap) who plays the game of “almost running over the pavement dwellers” with his official vehicle, slaps a college professor and makes the students take to the streets and face tear gas and rifles (all this while I kept wondering when was the last time Mumbai college-goers ever protested with such show of strength). He also has no compunctions to murder for money.

Genre: Action
Director: A.R. Murugadoss
Cast: Sonakshi Sinha, Anurag Kashyap, Konkana Sen Sharma
Storyline: A girl, raised to be tough, finds it hard to stay nice
Bottomline: Breaks bones, but not gender stereotypes

Sinha is slim, svelte and agile and wears a constant sulk for expression. Kashyap seems to be having all the fun while being resolutely himself. When he puffs at the joint and says, “Maal achcha tha, South se hoga”, it almost felt like he was endorsing Tamil cinema, as he always does. None of the actors gets any support from the script. The plot is utterly long-winded and tortuous with plotholes and weird coincidences strewn all over. But ours is not to question why. So in the most random and bizarre turn of events Akira finds herself in a mental asylum. If Salman Khan can in Tere Naam, why can’t she? It's done most easily with nary a protest from even her close family members. There is an overt attempt at ticking a few right boxes—a split second nod to the cause of acid attack victims, pitting a heavily pregnant ( Kahaani inspired) but competent lady cop Rabia (an utterly disinterested Konkana Sen Sharma) as against the corrupt male cops. But the entrenched patriarchy and misogyny is not shaken off, rather it gets reiterated with the many mixed metaphors. There is constant righteous harping on the virtues of the woman. She is pounded to pulp, made to suffer most gratuitously before she can rise up and pound back like a possessed avenging angel. It is the familiar falling back on the Durga-Shakti-Kali sterotype.

And in the most ridiculous and bizarre turn of the plot towards the end Akira has to become the sacrificial goat for the larger good of the community—“in the national interest”, “for the sake of law and order”, “to save the town from possible communal unrest”. Never has any actor looked as unconvinced mouthing such inanities as Sharma to Sinha. Meanwhile, Sinha gamely sees herself as a Christ figure who bears the sins of the world on the cross. Daughter India replaces Mother India. And all I could say to myself at the end of the film was Beti Bachao.

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Printable version | Apr 14, 2021 8:49:30 PM |

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