More than the action, it is the comedy that makes An Action Hero paisa-vasool entertainment
Director: Anirudh Iyer
Writers: Anirudh Iyer/ Neeraj Yadav
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana and Jaideep Ahlawat
Maanav (Ayushmann Khurrana) is a Bollywood action hero. He is shooting in Haryana. Post-pack-up he has an encounter with an angry fan and accidentally the chap gets killed. Maanav freaks out and drives away (leaving a broken part of his spanking new luxury car at the spot). He takes a flight back to Mumbai and then to escape the paparazzi cameras outside the airport, he flies to London (it seems he is a UK citizen, so the process is less complicated). Now, the dead chap is the beloved kid brother of a local influential politician, Bhoora (Jaideep Ahlawat). In a fit of rage, to avenge the murder, he too lands up in London (without visa formalities etc, and carrying a loaded gun in his jhola). And the chase begins. What follows is a cat-and-mouse game replete with well-choreographed action sequences and chase scenes, some bizarre logic-defying incidents, and a hilarious-but-convenient climax involving a dreaded Indian don, Masood Abraham Katkar.
It is a story where the ‘hero’ becomes a ‘common man’ and writes himself a hero’s journey; it is a story of a star reclaiming the narrative of his life, a story of humanising the ‘hero’.
More than the action, it is the comedy that makes An Action Hero paisa-vasool entertainment. Whether it is taking a jibe at the loud and melodramatic news anchors or making a statement against the media trials and boycott culture, the dialogues are well-written and laced with black humour. The jokes, even the meta ones, land. In one scene the Bollywood-created over-the-top image of ‘don’ is shattered in a hilarious manner. There is a scene inside a police station where the police officer is perplexed by the job description of a DOP and asks him what he does for society, it is an apt portrayal of the mass’ understanding of cinema and art. But the most laugh-out-loud moments in the film are the spoofs of the television ‘news’ channels reflecting how today TRP smothers the truth.
Under the garb of a meta-comedy is a poignant commentary on the current media circus, vitriolic social media trolling of actors, the #boycottbollywood campaign, the flip side of being famous, and the general trend of turning Bollywood into the number one villain of the nation. This is the second Bollywood movie of the year that takes a swipe at media — interestingly enough, both are revenge dramas — but while R Balki chose blood and gore in Chup, Anirudh Iyer has opted for humour.
The action sequences are very well choreographed. But the problem is, they are too choreographed for a ‘real situation’. Even if you consider that Maanav is employing his skills and training as an action hero in real-life situations and hence, manages to pull off those stylised stunts, the use of a stunt double in one of the chase scenes is obvious and it takes away from the impact. But then, the movie never attempts to be ‘real’, the world of An Action Hero is far removed from the usual realistic world of the Ayushmann Khurrana movies, and it is by design. The movie is a tribute to Bollywood action movies and hence the brazen bizarreness is also part of the plot.
The background score by Sunny M.R is at times too loud. Tanishk Bagchi adds his own spin to Jehda Nasha and the iconic, Aap Jaisa Koi — the first one works, but he should not have attempted the second one. Parag Chhabra’s originals are fun and go with the vibe of the movie. D’Evil and Shah Rule’s rap Asli Action Chaalu (the theme song) grows on you. Vayu’s Ghere is groovy.
The 2 hours 10 minutes-long movie often is stretched too thin and could have done away with some of the flab.
Apart from the sarcasm and the wit of the writing, what sparkles is the chemistry between Ayushmann and Jaideep. Whenever the two are together on screen, they are fire. Be it their hand-to-hand combat scenes or just their casual conversations, it’s a delight to watch the duo. Also, their contrasting physicality heightens the impact where Jaideep is more ‘the action hero’ than ‘an action hero’.
It is great to see Ayushmann Khurrana attempt something different. His upper-caste male saviour roles in moral lecture-spouting small-town Hindi belt movies have long lost their charm. It was a prudent move to break away from that mould; and an action movie definitely seemed the best bet, at least on paper, to transition from being an urban hero to a mass hero. But sadly, it seems he lacks the charisma and the X factor of a massy action hero. In fact, his boy-next-door charm, which is his strength when he plays the common man becomes his Achilles’ heel while attempting a larger-than-life persona of a mass hero. Even with his chiselled and contoured physique, he doesn’t look the part and hence the initial scenes fail to impress. There is a sequence where much is being said about how he needs to feel the anger that the scene he is about to shoot requires; it is built up in a way that you really expect a glorious outburst at the end of it. Instead, the angry Ayushmann looks like a replica of a regular Ayushmann. There is no visible rage and the camera captures the scene from a distance diluting it further. It is when he becomes the common man that he owns the screen and he is a delight to watch. Ayushmann is definitely a good actor, but maybe just not a versatile one.
But Jaideep Ahlawat is. His rugged good looks and physicality make him an imposing and impressive ‘villain’, he is a Haryanvi playing a Haryanvi and hence slips into the skin as well as the tongue of the character easily, but it is his comic timing that adds sparkle to his Bhoora. As Bhoora, he is menacing yet endearing. He captures your heart in the very first scene where he is having his dinner and gets to know about the death of his brother over the phone. Before he could process it, he is offered another roti by the person serving him dinner. He is perplexed by the juxtaposition of the two situations at hand. Jaideep through his minimal yet spot-on expressions elevates this rather simple and mundane scene into a memorable one in a film replete with high-voltage action and chase scenes, over-the-top drama, hilarious spoofs, and thumping music. Even when he is just standing in a scene or reacting to fellow actors, he grabs all the attention. He has a smouldering screen presence and acting chops to match. It seems this man can stand in as a tree in a school play and still take home the best performance of the year trophy. Although it is Maanav’s world, the movie belongs to Jaideep Ahlawat.
Ayushmann Khurrana plays an action hero but he doesn’t break away from the ‘common man’ mould. In fact, he fits his action hero into it. The freshly chiselled actor plays Manaav and humanises a star’s personal battles. But it is Jaideep Ahlawat who packs the punch as the gun-toting politician, Bhoora. A meta-comedy that has a premise similar to Maneesh Sharma’s SRK-starrer 2016 film, Fan, is a hilarious take on the current media trials and boycott culture. It is a confident debut by director Anirudh Iyer. Also, Akshay Kumar, in his cameo, gives his best performance of the year.
It is a one-time fun watch that one can enjoy with the entire family. However, it doesn’t essentially demand a theatre experience; one can wait and catch it on OTT.
What’s hot: A dancing Ayushmann Khurana.
What’s not: The brutal murder of Nazia Hassan’s iconic song, Aap Jaisa Koi.
Disclaimer: The movie is beyond the realm of logic, so don’t go looking for the whys and the hows of things. Put on your willing-suspension-of–disbelief glasses and enjoy the fun ride.