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Bollywood Movie Reviews

Akelli Gets The Thrill  Quotient Right




Rating: *** ½

Debutant  director Pranay Meshram’s Akelli is quite  a pleasant surprise. Eschewing the  crudity of  The Kerala Story, it tells  a gripping tale  of  a  young Indian woman in pursuit of employment trapped in the terror of Talibanism in Syria.

Unlike  The Kerala Story, there is no sinister agenda here to demonize any community. Sure, the villains  are Muslim. But Islamophobia is  resolutely  averted  as the writer sets out to tease  out a engrossing tale  from the survival  genre  of  cinema.Beyond  a point you don’t care about the  religious identity  perpetrators. You just want  the  protagonist to flee the danger.

The plot, though quite beyond  plausibility in  parts, never lets the characters down. The pace is  relentless,  as Jyoti a girl from a humble bourgeois background finds herself in Syria working in a  garment factory.Straightaway, a sense of doom is stitched  into the storytelling when Jyoti  lands  in Syria  and is received by kindly charming Indian(Nishant Dahiya) who is to play a pivotal part in the crisis  that awaits Jyoti.

  While the peripheral characters, played with arresting authenticity by actors from the Gulf region , add a bedrock of authenticity to the  storytelling, it is Nushrratt Bharuccha who shines in the central role of  a woman who suddenly finds  herself on the wrong side of the fence. The role is  not just emotionally draining but physically exhausting.Nushrratt is equal to the task. It is time the  myopic  Hindi  film industry took  her talents more seriously.

   While some of the plotting is  beyond believability Nushrratt and  the energetic editing(by  Sumeet Kotian)  keep us  invested for  a  little  more than two hours.

The airport  climax  reminded me  of  Ben Affleck’s Argo, albeit a  budget version  . All through  I never felt  Akelli to be  a small  film. There is a saying in Hindi: Soch badi  honi chahiye. This  film illustrates the  thought amply. It is designed to thrill and is cut with a  surgeon’s precision.

Unlike  The Kerala Story, there is no extra meat, no flab, no  excessive violence in Akelli. Yet the  storytelling chills you to the bones from the moment  Jyoti lands  in Syria. In spite of the façade  of normalcy  you know  she  is  in trouble. Deep trouble.

Akelli is not  a  great work of art. It doesn’t aspire to be. Its ambitions are  self limiting. The  director  Pranay Meshram wants his audience to  be involved in the story of  a  plucky smalltown girl’s flight from the worst nightmare of any migrant’s life. Civil  violence is  largely uncivil for those caught  in  it. The last time you saw  a film about an Indian trapped in civil strife  in a foreign land was Airlift. And that was  all about subtle machismo.

Akelli exudes the musk of  pernicious masculinity  in  a nation that has  no respect for women. It is  a harrowing experience for the protagonist and a thriller for us. Funny how one woman’s poison is  another man’s meat.

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