AK vs AK review: Anurag Kashyap-starrer is meta-meta

AK vs AK cast: Anil Kapoor, Anurag Kashyap
AK vs AK director: Vikramaditya Motwane
AK vs AK rating: Two and a half stars

A ‘flop’ director. A successful long-time star. And a tale which is both real and not-real, borrowing from the real-life personas of the two main protagonists: Anurag Kashyap, and Anil Kapoor, the former, brash, outspoken, movie-mad creator of dark matter; the latter, amazingly fit, still working, still in demand.

An early twist, which involves a kidnapping and a coercion-filmed-on-camera, needs you to suspend disbelief: could the Kashyap we know really be behind the act; can Kapoor, always known for his civility, really be such a boor? Or are the two playing hyper-hypo-real versions of themselves?

Motwane’s movie is not just meta. It’s meta-meta, especially when some parts hit too close to the mark, and some are just tantalisingly off the mark. Overnight no can become a star, unless your surname is Kapoor, smirks Anurag, causing Anil to wince. This line, about the astounding longevity of the Kapoors and Khans, is well-known. But we also know that Anil had to work hard for his success. And would AK Jr ever say this to AK Sr on his face?

Another major twist, which comes much later in the movie, forces us to look back and question our perceptions. Can Anil, whom we have known as a hero on screen ( a whole list of his hit roles are rolled out, which include the evergreen Lakhan and Munna), be a real-life ‘nayak’?

Any detail of this movie-within-a-movie can be a spoiler. So I will just say that I enjoyed most of this caper, which could as easily have been called ‘raat ek baat ki’, or ‘Mumbai raat ki baahon mein’ or and any other film which involves a bunch of people careering around the streets of a city which never sleeps, where anything can happen, and where everything has a dream-like quality. Stands to reason, doesn’t it, because that’s where the stars live, and when the stars are out on the roads, they belong to the public who adores them. Or wait, is it the characters they play that we adore?

A sequences which gave me actual goose-bumps has Anil wade into a crowd, and become a chameleon: is he for real, or is it all reel? He is desperate, looking for someone, nearly at the end of his tether. But the people who recognise him, holding out phones for selfies, are delighted to be in the presence of their one-two-ka-four-Lakhan. The crowd roars; among them, we glimpse Anurag, looking on in admiration.

One of the movie’s inside jokes (you will have the most fun if you are an industry insider) is based on a film that Anurag wanted to make with Anil which never got made, and lookie here, they are in a film together. I’ve always maintained that Anurag should act more: here he is doing Anurag, togged out in a track-suit and a pair of Balenciagas (are they real or fake?), with great glee, and a momentary manic gleam. I do have a quibble, though. The film should have been crisper: it slides in parts, and you wish that Anurag and/or Motwane would have yelled ‘cut’, sooner.

Finally, we are left with that eternal question: do actors ever stop acting, even when the cameras stop rolling? At its heart, AK vs AK, feels like a secret fanboy fantasy. Anil is propped up, with yet another ‘Filmfare’ award (this time for the film which is in the film, therefore fictional), and getting to saunter down a corridor, slo-mo, dark glasses in place, every inch a star. The conflict is faux, the hero worship is real.

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