Will this film work at the box-office is as much of a quiz question as superstar Maanav (Ayushmann Khurrana) asking himself, ‘Will I get out of this mess?’
The mess is that action superstar Maanav who has declared the underworld irrelevant, unwittingly kills a gangster-politician’s brother. He flees out of India and heads to London.
Bhoora Solanki (Jaideep Ahlawat), a rough Haryanvi politician and older brother of the man who’s been killed, slaps and strips the local police, before he too flies to London.
6-pack flaunting red carpet celebrity is soon out of favour. Fame is so fickle. In fact fame and notoriety are never far from each other. Everybody who chased him is now after him.
The police want to arrest Maanav, the goonda politician wants his head, an underworld don hiding in UK wants to prove that Bollywood still dances to his tune, the public wants to lynch him and a media trial has already pronounced its sentence. As Bhoora, sometimes playing gangster, sometimes stepping into the role of the public, tells Maanav, “Tum actors ko humne banaya hai. Tum wohi karoge jo hum kahenge.”
Director Anirudh Iyer and writer Neeraj Yadav team up with the eternally adventurous Ayushmann Khurrana to attempt a unique action film. Where an action hero has to punch his way out of major trouble in real life. From telling a gangster, “Ladna mera kaam hai. Shauq nahi” to telling his manager (Harsh Chaaya), “Maine ladna seekh liya”, it’s off-camera action for Maanav who has to script, choreograph and plot his own story.
It’s always a pleasure to watch Ayushmann try out yet another genre and it’s refreshing casting with Jaideep Ahlawat oozing screen menace and poker-faced humour. It is the verbal and physical face-off between the two actors that works most of the time.
Akshay Kumar playing himself provides an interesting moment especially when he distracts the media for Maanav to slip away unnoticed.
Another likeable shot: on the run in London, the celebrity fugitive looking wistfully at a hoarding of himself endorsing a watch. A neat way of wordlessly saying, ‘Look how times change.’
A large part of Iyer’s storytelling is to show the film industry as victims of a baseless boycott trend, fostered and boosted by a news-hungry media. News becomes juicy when a celebrity can be hanged, drawn and quartered. It’s an underworld don who spouts the wisdom, “You’re a mauka, an opportunity for the poor to lynch a rich man.” When the don makes Maanav dance saying, “Bhai ke function mein aaj bhi superstar naachte hai,” it’s Bollywood playing victim again. Public please note, they’re not willing VIP guests.
Iyer somewhere gets carried away with turning a screen image into reality. When in trouble, the action hero, portrayed as a very nice, peace-loving guy who’s polite and accommodating, does stunts without a double, he can punch, fight, kick, shoot and strategise like James Bond and Ajit Doval rolled into one Maanav.
That’s where it’s incredulous.
Some of the funny moments like the one between a DoP and a local cop in the Haryanvi village may not be understood by a mass audience.
With the title promising action, perhaps far better set pieces would’ve elevated the fights.
There are also too many characters running around especially in London. Like a lawyer-cum-chef who does nothing to move the story but prolongs it.
The cops in London come off as effete and at the end of long car chases you feel like telling Maanav, “Always wear your seatbelt, man.”
With an anchor shouting, “The country wants to know,” Anirudh Iyer also succumbs to the overdone caricaturising of Arnab Goswami which isn’t funny anymore. Perhaps the film industry needs to understand that every time it does a takeoff on him, they’re actually doffing their hat to him and making him even more of a celebrity than he already is.
To answer the question asked right at the beginning, yes, Maanav does punch, kick and scramble out of deep trouble. But will the film be able to scramble to the top at the box-office? With so many factors cancelling the freshness, the makers will have to cross their fingers and say a prayer.
Watch the trailer of An Action Hero: