Aks (2001)


Aks (2001) 
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Manoj Bajpai, Nandita Das, Raveena Tandon
Director: Rakesh Mehra
Music Director: Anu Malik
Nutshell: The Gita meets The Devils Advocate in another case of style over substance


Aks begins with hazy bells in a church in Budapest herald in the opening scene, a gun being pointed from a distance towards a calvacade of cars. A minister makes his way to obtain a floppy disc which details plans for the assassination of the Indian Prime minister. Manu Verma (Amitabh Bachchan) is in charge of his security. Minutes later, we see him turn a gun on the minister while stealing the floppy. And then again, minutes later, we see another Bachchan walk into the office. The original tears his mask off to reveal the evil Rajvan (Manoj Bajpai). An interesting start to what appears to be a promising thriller. A rollercoaster ride is promised but fails to materialise.

Moving the action to India, Manu Verma is now with the crime branch and is asked to investigate a local murder where he recognises the trade mark of Rajvan, a small mask on a chain. Determined to catch him this time, he moves his family to Delhi and begins to track down Raghu. A cat and mouse game is played and after Raghu displays spiderman skills in decimating most of Manu’s force, Manu is able to catch him and justice is meted out. Raghu is sentenced to death. In a last ditch attempt to escape, Raghu and Manu shoot at each other and fortunately, Raghu is killed. However, this is the point when Manu starts to behave strangely and it is soon apparent that Raghu’s evil spirit has found a home in Manu. Manu has his turns when he transforms into Raghu unleashing evil everywhere including at home.

Rakesh Mehra’s film borrows its central idea from the Gita, the theme of immortality and rebirth, fusing it with the idea of evil spirits and the bhoot-savaar syndrome. Thematically, it is an interesting concept but its execution is such that it does little for the viewer or even sustain interest. It plods along at a lazy pace, rather violently and one tires almost immediately with the overkill of having Bachchan on screen almost all the time, with his twists and turns, possessed. There is no respite from him and hardly no emphasis on anyone else after Manoj Bajpai’s demise in the film. Mehra does create a sense of eeriness but concentrating the camera entirely on Bachchan makes proceedings repetitive and tedious. Yes, its an attempt at being different (shades of The Devil’s Advocate?) and to an extent, the film succeeds in being that but if any greater depth was intended, it was lost on me.

Amitabh Bachchan is irritating in his role although good for him to have tried something new rather than stick to the straight and narrow character roles that he is being offered these days. Manoj Bajpai is deliciously evil and for once, he does not try to infuse too much realism into his character. He is evil incarnate, a little over the top but in step with his character. Raveena Tandon has precious little to do except wiggle around a lot to various songs, playing a club dancer and Raghu’s love interest. However, she does leave an impression in the couple of solo scenes that she does have. Nandita Das is also wasted in a role which really does not have any interesting shades for her to portray.

Anu Malik does a sterling job of the background score and with Gulzar’s lyrics, the songs stand out except for the risible ramleela song which can easily be deleted from the film. The Hariharan song does not figure but probably just as well as the film is inordinately long.

Technically, the film is excellent in all departments. But sadly, the film is a triumph of style over content. I cannot see the film appealing to the common man or even the intelligentsia. Good attempt Mehra at trying something new but better luck next time.