This is another of those movies I had wanted to see for a long time, but didn’t get a chance to. I don’t really feel like writing a movie review right now, but there is something in the movie which is making me write this (pun intended as an afterthought).
What do you make of a movie like Aks? It is not very easy to talk about this movie if you don’t want to say things which have already been said. Yet, this is a movie which could be a minefield of insights (most of them probably unintended by the director or the scriptwriter) because there is a lot in this movie about what we can call the social subconscious of our society. I hope someone will do a more thorough study about this movie, somewhat in the Umberto Eco style. That is the real significance of this botched attempt at making a masterpiece. Aks is not a usual Hindi commercial or even ‘art’ movie, at least not in the first half. I will now say something which has been said by many reviewers of this movie: the first half is good, but the second is just nonsense sitting on top of the substance introduced in the first half.
In simple words, the major theme of the movie is the oldest one: the fight between good and evil. Or, to put it more intellectually, the dichotomy or dialectics of good and evil. But the best way to describe the theme of the movie is by using a single word: humzaad (हमज़ाद). Which means that the movie suggests that good and evil are basically the two sides of the same coin and ‘as long as there is Rama, there will be Raavana’. And that the society just doesn’t want to see its own evil face, which also implies that the evil is not really in a few individuals. It is there in the society as a whole. Also, that there is no way to eliminate the evil forever. That there is no real possibility of a better world. Of course, not all of this is explicitly stated, but some of it is. By the way, there is also a novel named Humzaad (हमज़ाद) by the great (so I think) Hindi writer Manohar Shyam Joshi. But let me rush to add that I don’t completely agree with this idea of the movie or of the novel. May be I am just afraid to accept the reality, but if this is the reality then…
The movie, however, does have an ambiguously positive ending: a compromise that didn’t pay off in commercial terms. If the director had just stayed true to the theme of the first half, he could have created a masterpiece. Instead what we have is a promising first half and a heavily disappointing second half. While the first half is more subtle with some real substance (even if not all of it is original), the second half has the movie maker panicking to please the lowest common denominator and to ensure that the enterprise is a profit making one. Not quite surprising that the movie has been directed by an adman and the ‘business partners’ are IndiaTimes.com.
The movie is quite slick by the standards of Hindi movies. As someone has noted (not exact words), there is a pleasing riot of colors. Acting is not that bad, even though sometimes the actors have to do things which would seem quite ludicrous if described in words.
But the unquestionable winners in this movie are the songs and the music. The lyrics have Gulzar’s characteristic stamp, with the difference that this time they are more wickedly than romantically poetic. As for the music, I think this is Anu Malik’s best film. In spite of the fact that his music here owes a lot to A. R. Rehman. In fact, it is as if the music was composed by an avatar of Rehman who got completely integrated into the unique and great (well, at least partially great) tradition of Hindi film music, but still retained the typical Rehman touch of playful, unusual and beautiful notes and sounds.
If only the second half was half as good as the irresistible music and songs, instead of presenting confused supernatural para-psychological mumbo-jumbo.
Did I mention that Aks is made by an adman and the media partners are IndiaTimes.com? Also, that the movie doesn’t take too many risks when it comes to talking about the system, even though it is based on the extremely ‘cynical’ idea of humzaad. Business is business. Nothing is more important than profit and security (for whom?), not necessarily in that order.