The joke going around social media is that the first person to watch AK vs AK was Malaika Arora. Indeed the biggest achievement of this meta-Bollywood film by Vikramaditya Motwane seems to be that it has managed to introduce some self-reflection into an industry that takes itself way too seriously.

With a wickedly clever concept, that of taking real life celebrities and parodying their fame, the film rests on a simple plot: Anurag Kashyap, enfant terrible of the film industry, kidnaps the daughter of iconic superstar Anil Kapoor, and starts filming him as Kapoor rushes to save his daughter’s life. It is clearly Motwane’s nod to the notion of new age directors like himself and his lead challenging Bollywood’s age old structures with their snazzy new moviemaking styles.

There is no doubt that AK vs AK is an entertaining watch – it keeps the viewer hooked and occasionally chuckling throughout its tight run time, with the birthday sequence at Anil Kapoor’s home featuring cameos from his son Harshvardhan and elder brother the legendary Bollywood producer Boney Kapoor being a particular highlight. Seeing these personalities, who we only read about in tabloids and gossip columns, fret over the mundanities of their lives in their own quirky ways was pure entertainment.

But this sequence also exposes AK vs AK’s biggest flaw – that of missed opportunities. One cannot help but wonder what an epic laughter fest the film could have been had it focused less on the kidnapping plot and more on expanding on its concept which is unique for Indian cinema at least. More self-deprecating cameos from more celebrities, more cleverly veiled digs at Bollywood, more secrets being spilled, more stars mocking their stardom.

Imagine, if you will, a Karan Johar frantically calling and threatening Anil Kapoor with dire consequences if his daughter Sonam is late to his sets again! But alas that was not to be. Perhaps it was harder to get more faces from Bollywood to make fun of themselves.

What the film does well is to stick to the rules created by its outlandish concept, and manages to make every moment a rollercoaster ride – funny, disturbing, thrilling, and thought provoking all at once. It is tightly written and flawlessly put together, it remains true to its ethos throughout, and to Motwane’s credit, shooting a film of this nature in an extreme cinema vérité style could not have been easy – especially on the streets of a city as chaotic as Bombay.

The real star of the film though is the big AK himself, Anil Kapoor. While Kashyap turns in a menacing yet hilarious performance, this kind of experimentation and fiddling around with his public image is almost par for the course, but for someone steeped in the traditions of Bollywood superstardom like Anil Kapoor, this sort of self-deprecation was a brave move indeed.

And he fits into this new world of a new kind of filmmaking perfectly. If nothing else, watch it for his infectious energy and to witness a new stage in the evolution of an evergreen star.

Devayush Chowdhary is an independent filmmaker.

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