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Movie Review: Akira

A woman’s voice-over tells us that she has never met a girl as remarkable as Akira (which apparently means “graceful strength” in Sanskrit). Life, we are also told, tests you in ways that awaken and challenge your true inner strength.

Akira is growing up in a happy family in Jodhpur, but when she identifies the perpetrator of an acid attack on a local girl, she begins to face threats and attacks. That’s when her father (Atul Kulkarni) realizes that his daughter needs to be able to defend herself physically. He enrols her in a martial arts class.

But one day, when Akira tries to stop a man from throwing acid on a woman, the acid falls on the man. Akira is arrested and sent to a remand home for three years. Once she’s served her term, the now grown-up Akira (Sonakshi Sinha) tries to catch up on her studies and keep her nose out of trouble, but the shame of the remand home hovers over her like a grey cloud. Things get worse when she moves to a college hostel in Mumbai. Sinha spends most of her screen time scowling and pouting, even in a new city offering an opportunity to start afresh.

Circumstance drags her deep into a mess of wrongful accusations and arrests, mental hospitals and entrapment by corrupt policemen led by the uber-shady ACP Govind Rane (Anurag Kashyap, relishing his part as the unflinchingly menacing baddie). Rane and his team have stolen a huge stash of cash from an accident scene. You have to discount the gamut of plot failures that bring Rane and Akira in contact.

Akira’s family is completely unconcerned for the most part, or quickly convinced of her mental instability. A possible romantic interest, in the form of Siddharth (Amit Sadh), an aspiring finance PhD candidate who also works with a non-governmental organization, is added in, yet none of these people, or Akira, are able to fight back when it really matters. The system summarily destroys her life.

The one dutiful presence is the pregnant inspector Rabia (Konkona Sensharma), whose systematic investigation brings her close to the truth.

Akira is a remake of the Tamil film Mouna Guru (2011). The thought of a woman action hero sounds like fun, and every now and again Sinha gets to show off her karate chops and martial arts, but the handful of action sequences are less than inventive. She is far more effective in the emotional scenes.

Director A.R. Murugadoss pays lip service to the plight of acid-attack victims, the mentally ill and the hearing-impaired while triple-underlining the message of women’s empowerment. For every stereotype Murugadoss sets out to break, he leaves one behind—the short-haired girl with multiple body piercings has to be a rebel, the urban sister-in-law is wicked, the mother is whimpering and benign, and the spirited and strong heroine will make the ultimate sacrifice.

Akira released in theatres on Friday.

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