Honestly, this film does not look like the work of a first-time director.
Anirudh Iyer, given a couple more films, is likely to take his due place among the great directorial finds of the millennium. He handles every aspect of the film—the action, the crime, the in-film shoots, the humor, the madness and the satire, with an acumen that many filmmakers today may not possess. An Action Hero is a refreshing mix of crime, comedy and satire.
In a conversation, the filmmaker had told us that one of his chief inspirations while growing up was Mani Rathnam. Thankfully, his cinematic debut shows a wider influence of Hindi masters of entertainment like Manmohan Desai (reverence to entertainment at any cost and reveling in illogic), Anees Bazmee (humor in the most unexpected situations), Rohit Shetty (a humorous undercurrent amidst a visual action spectacle) and even Sriram Raghavan (dark comedy and the bitingly satirical end).
The crime part is basic to the plot of this humorous look at many dark aspects of life, society and cinema today. Superstar Maanav (Ayushmann Khurrana) cannot muster anger enough to do a fight sequence. His manager Roshan (Harsh Chhaya) bluffs him that his dream vehicle that he wanted delivered on that very day will take a week more and the furious actor delivers a spectacular shot. After this, he is shown the car that has already arrived, and the ecstatic star dashes off in the dark beauty on the roads of Haryana where he is shooting.
This incenses Vicky Solanki (Sumit Singh), local politician Bhoora (Jaideep Ahlawat)’s spoilt brother, who has been waiting to meet him outside the set for hours to click a picture that can help him in the elections to come. He follows Maanav, and accosts him in a lonely area. In an angry scuffle after Vicky breaks Maanav’s car’s side mirror, Maanav pushes him roughly. Vicky bangs his head on a small rock and dies. In panic, Maanav drives away, leaving the mirror on the road.
At his hotel, he realizes what has happened and that the mirror has been found. He catches a flight to Mumbai and changes planes to go to London, where he has a house. Bhoora is furious, wants to kill him after the cops identify the mirror. He locates his London address on the net and follows him within hours. As it is found that Maanav is in London, the cops there also swing into action and, when Bhoora reaches there, there is further mayhem.
Meanwhile, Maanav must call up his contacts to help him out, but Bhoora is hot on his trail along with the British cops. A chain of adventures and encounters with Bhoora lead to a situation where Maanav is kidnapped and taken to Katkar (Gautam Joglekar), a dreaded don who is now in London, and who wants Maanav to dance at his sister’s wedding. And from here, we reach the incisively sharp and stinging climax.
The background music by Sunny M.R. remains an asset, along with the magnificent camerawork by Kaushal Shah (UK looks at its best throughout) and the rousingly exciting editing by Ninad Khanolkar. The English lyrics (with a small mix of Hindi) that appear in the background remind me of the similar, pithy work in the web series Four More Shots Please! but the words are more direct and zingy.
Let us now look at what the “intellectuals” will call the flaws and loopholes in the script. To me, as they accumulated, I found them deliberate and realized that they were highly necessary for the invigorating goings-on that keep us engrossed for 132 minutes.
Here is the list: a high-end, imported car is delivered to a huge film star in a remote place in Haryana, where a mammoth set is erected for an indoor action scene that should have happened in a Mumbai studio anyway; Maanav and Bhoora travel aseasily to London as if they are commuting to a nearby Indian location; Maanav’s London address is freely available on the ‘Net though he never has lived there before; the action hero who must be using doubles for the riskier stunts does incredible stunts all along (ending by saying that he has now become a true-blue real-life action hero!); a dreaded don has barely a few people around to look after his safety. There are some more areas that help the crazy flow of this masala movie.
The film revels also in trashing the media’s ways of demonizing or worshipping public figures. By now, taking digs at Arnab Goswami and his clones and ilk have become an on-screen template in spurts, but this film goes the whole hog. In the end, we salute the British who must have helped out on the film to sportingly accept what they are shown doing in the climax, for it does not really show them in a Er…Umm…Aah!…positive light!
The humor is first-rate all through, and the laconic Ayushmann Khurrana could easily be said to have essayed the finest performance of his career to date. He is incredibly in sync with his character, who is billed by the frenzied Indian media as “Naam Maanav kaam Daanav (His name is that of a man, but his deeds are that of a demon)”!
Jaideep Ahlawat is no less of an achiever here. In what is again the finest performance of his limited but very impressive career, the actor does wonders with his intense, intentionally poker-faced expressions conveying volumes of emotions.
Of the rest, Neeraj Madhav shines as Sai, and Gautam Joglekar is great as Katkar. A special shout-out, however, is due for Jitender Hooda, who is absolutely uproarious as the Haryanvi cop.
In this marvelous slice of entertainment, there are several highlight sequences, but space permits me to just mention two: one, the sequence between the cops and Bhoora at Vicky’s last rites, and two, the final face-off between Bhoora and Maanav as they lie exhausted at Katkar’s hideout.
This is one film that deserves more than one watch! And I, for one, would not be surprised if Akshay Kumar chooses to do a film with Anirudh: his side-splitting cameo matches his brilliant few-seconds turn in Dishoom!
T-Series Films & Colour Yellow Productions present An Action Hero Produced by: Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar & Aanand L. Rai Directed by: Anirudh Iyer Written by: Anirudh Iyer & Neeraj Yadav Music:Tanishk Bagchi, Biddu, Parag Chhabra & Amar Jalal Starring: Ayushmann Khurrana, Jaideep Ahlawat, Neeraj Madhav, Jeetendra Hooda, Hiten Patel, Harsh Chhaya, Gautam Joglekar, Vaqar Shaikh, Siddharth Amar & others Sp. App.: Akshay Kumar, Malaika Arora, Nora Fatehi & others