Disclaimer: The following article contains major spoilers from the film AK vs. AK.
Netflix's AK vs. AK, directed by Vikramaditya Motwane, is easily one of the wackiest, most experimental thrillers to have come out of the Hindi film industry in recent years. It may falter in parts, but overall, it emerges as a clear winner.
Starring Anurag Kashyap and Anil Kapoor as fictional versions of themselves, and shot largely through a single, handheld camera, AK vs. AK is as meta as it gets. Here are some of the finest moments of the film:
1. When Anurag admonishes Nawaz for rejecting his film.
One of the film's real highlight is how it constantly takes an indulgent, humorous dig at the Hindi film industry. Like the time Anurag reminds Nawaz that he 'made his career' after Nawaz walks out of Anurag's film.
It reminds you a little of the way Zoya Akhtar presented the story behind the glitz and glamour in her debut film, Luck By Chance.
Only here, there is an even thinner line separating reality and fiction. And the insults are far more inventive. Like the "tu ch*tiyon ka Ranveer Singh hai" that Anil directs at Anurag.
(Ranveer Singh translates to Chris Hemsworth - make what you will of that translation).
2. When Anil realizes that everyone, from the local cops to his family, believes Kashyap's story about Anil preparing for a role and not actually hunting for his daughter.
3. When Harshvardhan Kapoor makes a not-so-subtle reference to the commercial failure of Bhavesh Joshi Superhero.
Harshwardhan Kapoor declares that he loves Kashyap, even if his family may hate him, and then requests Kashyap to cast him in a movie. He goes so far as to give an impromptu (and from the looks of it, unprepared) audition.
As the 'starry cameo', Kapoor is a riot, caricaturing the image of the 'star kid' while taking a dig at Vikramaditya Motwane - who not only directed Kapoor in Bhavesh Joshi but is also the director of AK vs. AK.
The fact that all this takes place at the same time when Kashyap has Anil Kapoor looking for his kidnapped daughter makes it meta cinema at its peak.
4. When Anil Kapoor employs his star status to find the driver who has kidnapped his daughter.
While Anil Kapoor gets embroiled in the mess because his stardom was threatened, he employs the same stardom to hunt for his daughter.
On the hunt for the taxi driver who abducted his daughter on Kashyap's orders, Anil comes across a local mela. As the crowd hastens to mob him, making him lose sight of the driver, Anil turns the situation around by climbing on stage and requesting them for help.
But first, he needs to entertain them. It's a rare glimpse of how, for the artists, the show must always go on, no matter what they're experiencing.
It may be scripted and dramatic, but that does not make it any less emotional or insightful.
5. When Anurag Kashyap realizes his seemingly well-laid plan has been derailed.
The sign of a good thriller is that it keeps you at the edge of your seat because you never predict the next turn of events. AK vs. AK goes a step further and manages to surprise the audience and the person who believes he's writing the thriller - Anurag Kashyap.
When Kashyap believes he is in control of the events, there remains an almost maniacal, mad glint in his eyes - as he proclaims he is ready to 'die for cinema'.
But the second the story changes and his own parents become a victim of the project, you can see his excitement turn to apprehension, and later, to full-blown fear because he is no longer in control of the story.
He is famous for being the director who often chucks the script at the last moment, on the set, and goes by his 'gut instinct'. Suffice to say, it's nothing short of thrilling, pun intended, to see him be at the receiving end of the same treatment.
6. When it's revealed who is the real mastermind behind the entire plan (MAJOR SPOILER)
In the end, it's revealed that the entire plan, from Sonam's kidnapping to Anil's accident, was actually hatched by Anil himself. And you gotta give it to Mr. Kapoor that his sense of style and inimitable swag at the moment upstages even the ultimate plot reveal. As the superstar would say, jhakaas!
AK vs. AK is as much a thriller as a commentary on the way the industry functions, because of the audience's tendency to focus more on the 'face' in front of the camera, rather than the one behind it. Which, depending on how you use the situation, can be both a boon and a curse.
All images are screenshots from the film on Netflix.