Ak vs AK: Will the real Anil Kapoor, Anurag Kashayp please stand up
Vikramaditya Motwane's dark comedy delves into a reel world where fact meets fiction and a Bollywood director and an actor are at loggerheads with each other
When you have one of your filmmaker buddies, Anurag Kashyap, along with a veteran actor who can still pass for a superstar half his age like Anil Kapoor fronting your movie, chances are you might be accused of being self-indulgent. But Vikramaditya Motwane (Udaan, Sacred Games) isn’t bothered. In dark comedy AK vs AK Kashyap and Kapoor play themselves — a director and an actor engaged in a real-time drama when the former kidnaps the latter’s daughter (Sonam Kapoor in a cameo) and holds her to ransom while he films the ensuing chaos.
In a Zoom conversation with City Times, the director says when the story was pitched to him he found it an exciting enough premise to sink his teeth into. As for signing on Kashyap for the lead, he laughingly alludes to the story being circulated by the Gangs of Wasseypur director that he was forced to sign on the dotted line by Motwane. “Kashyap is literally the one person it is written for,” he confesses. “So if he hadn’t done the film I don’t know if this film would have been there honestly.” Hopefully Anil Kapoor isn’t privy to that information considering he and Kashyap are engaged in a very reel ‘public spat’ while promoting the film.
CT TALK: IN CONVERSATION WITH VIKRAMADITYA MOTWANE
Shahid out, Anil in
The movie which had been in the works since 2015 was initially shot with Shahid Kapoor in the lead. “Shahid shot for it in 2015 and then we had a scheduling conflict,” Motwane admits. The director then got busy with Bhavesh Joshi (starring Harshvardhan Kapoor) and Sacred Games and it wasn’t until 2019 that he got to take a relook at the movie. It was then that he and writer Avinash Sampath (credited for both story and screenplay) decided to go ahead with Anil Kapoor. “In fact Anil fits the role better than what anybody else was doing it for the reasons that are in the film. So we decided to rewrite it with him in mind and pitched it and he said yes.”
What about Akshay Kumar and Aamir Khan, did they ever come into the picture considering their fortuitous names? He laughs it off, “Of course it did, but I think Anil just worked better for us!”
Despite having worked with Harshvardhan Kapoor for Bhavesh Joshi, Motwane claims he was a bit nervous about approaching a veteran actor like Anil Kapoor. “I didn’t know if he was going to say yes, no, throw the script at my face…”
But luckily for him Kapoor liked the pitch and came on board. “At the end of the day he (Anil Kapoor) is very secure, he is very ready to experiment.”
Movie on steroids
While Motwane is open about getting easy access to the top talents in the industry, he is dismissive of the idea of the movie being seen as an exercise in self-indulgence. “Self-indulgent, never,” he asserts. “Self referential, yes.” The movie is rife with inside Bollywood jokes and references to varied actors like Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Ranveer Singh.
Both Kashyap and Kapoor are playing versions of what people think they are, he elaborates. “There is a certain amount of power of two or so and so on steroids, the version they end up playing in the movie, so there is an element of truth there.”
He admits there was also the danger of going too much into the industry and its inside jokes. They wanted to keep it interesting for the average audience who doesn’t know too much about the industry. But it is a mix of both and those who are aware of the industry will find a lot to laugh about, but even if you are not, you will still find it an interesting story.
Reel vs reel
AK vs AK is a movie brimming with potential right from the title, so which came first, the name or the concept?
“Both came together. Of course, the title helps you go after the cast and the fact is that the casting fits the title; it has a ring to it,” says Motwane.
The movie follows the events of a day after Anil Kapoor finds out daughter Sonam has been kidnapped by an embittered Anurag Kashyap, upset over the fact that the Ram Lakhan superstar was not willing to do his movie.
Both Kashyap and Kapoor play extended versions of themselves in the movie, which makes it more fun for the viewers. “The idea was that we are making a fun film — so there are lots of real thing there, things have been made up along the way as well,” explains the director.
“Harsh abusing me (for making a ‘flop’ movie like Bhavesh Joshi!) is absolutely real! Anil Kapoor telling the camera that he gave the down payment for Anurag’s flat from the film Nayak is also real… That Anil Kapoor keeps a gun in his house, not so real!” We should hope so!
With the movie seemingly set in real locations, the director clues us in that while Kashyap’s house in the movie is the real deal, Anil Kapoor’s house had to be made on set since the plot called for a certain bit of breakages which obviously they couldn’t do in the real house. Our observation about the budget for the movie being low, considering the action is set in real time and the lead actors don’t even change their costumes, is met with an emphatic no. “It seems to be shot in real locations, but it is not; a lot of that space has been constructed. It is not easy to shoot in Bombay, on the streets,” he explains. Then as if to underline the point in case we get taken in by the breezy nature of AK vs AK — “It’s a fairly ambitious film.”
Actor vs Director
The director vs actor debate has been played out to exaggerated effect in the movie. “What I was trying to show is it is such a frivolous argument at the end of the day because it takes more than a village to make a film and its not just the actor or the director,” says Motwane. How does he explain the star-studded blockbusters coming out of Bollywood then? “Yes, we are a star based industry,” he admits. But it comes from a lot of studios insisting on having a star before things end up being greenlit because that’s the way they believe the audiences will come in, he adds. But at the same time Motwane is of the opinion that a lot more effort needs to go into making movies that are worthy of the big screens.
“It’s important that we end up making movies not just with stars but with content; Baahubali being the best example of that — it was the biggest hit that came to the big screen with an unknown star.
“We need to see more of that happen,” he asserts. “I think the audience is primed for it — for fresh things on the screen that are really well made and slickly made; to justify the price of their coming in to the theatre, star or not.”
AK vs AK drops on Netflix on December 24