Akhanda movie review: For better or worse, this is everything you expect from a Nandamuri Balakrishna-Boyapati Srinu film
Akhanda is a film where a human bone breaks and it makes the sound of a plastic bottle being crushed. Everything is deliberately loud and glib.
For most of us, one Bala Krishna is more than enough. Not for Boyapati Srinu, though. It has been that way with all the three films they've collaborated on. It's either that his screen presence is way too potent to fit into a single character, or he is half as charismatic as he used to be, so the viewer needs two of them to not notice the difference. In Akhanda, too, he creates two characters for the actor. But he abandons one, Murali Krishna (Bala Krishna), as soon as the character is done laying the path for the entrance of Akandha (Bala Krishna), an aghora, who is the heir-apparent of Lord Shiva.
It is interesting to see a film that uses twins this way; one character as an exposition device and the other as resolution. What about the 2nd act, the central conceit, you might ask. Well, the lack of conceit or the repetitiveness of it is the film's conflict--the second Bala Krishna enters and looks the same way he does in Legend. Can we watch the same film again and again, with a few changed parameters? Can a head-splitting BGM distract the viewer from the fact that the film's second half is just a lengthy fight sequence? Watch the film to find out.
Inside a palatial home in Anantapur, a woman is sleeping after giving birth to twin boys. The father takes them to a swami (Jagapathi Babu) to seek his blessings. The swami is pleased by one of them and calls the other pralayam (destruction). When asked by the father to get rid of the child, he puts him in an alms bag of another swami, who is going to Varanasi. The child who isn't abandoned grows up to be Murali Krishna, who is all things good. He wants to eradicate factionalism, violence against women, and save the planet from misuse--Telugu cinema hero's trivial trifecta. He is soon stopped from living his best life, as bad people are aplenty in the cinematic world of Boyapati.
When the film is all but ending, an investigative officer from New Delhi asks Akhanda, 'Meru maala manishi kaadha?' (Aren't you a human, like us?) 'Never', Bala Krishna replies in his signature manner. That made me laugh, but to everyone else chanting 'Jai Balayya' it was a rousing moment. You can never tell with a Bala Krishna performance; whether you are supposed to be moved by it or laugh at it. Having said that, he is great as this god-like man who is killing people left and right, bad CGI be damned. M. Rathnam's dialogues are appropriately over-the-top and fun too. Pragya Jaiswal plays Saranya, an IAS officer, who is enamored by Murali Krishna and later marries him. She is relatively well-written and Pragya carries her well. Do we see her do collector-y things? Don't be ridiculously greedy. Of course, we don't.
If Boyapati can be seen through the lens of an auteur, reckless violence would be his trademark. Srikanth plays a businessman who likes the feel of warm blood between his fingers. He is appropriately towering and scary to look at, but the effect wears off. The film spends so much time elevating a godman, Gajendra, but, in the later parts of the film, he looks clueless. In any other film, the hero's eventual loss of invincibility and possible death is what keeps things interesting for the viewer. But Akandha's titular character is a man who cannot be destroyed. So, the viewer develops a robotic detachment with the proceedings knowing well that the hero will come out of it unharmed. Commerical or otherwise, it is just bad cinema.
The film begins with a military operation. When an officer finds the man they are looking for and calls it in. Instead of acting on the information, the commander starts telling the officer who this man is and why he must be caught. Meanwhile, the criminal kills them all and escapes. As far as exposition goes, that's a very bad start. One doesn't go into a film like this expecting technical prowess. Even so, I was taken aback by the clumsy writing. The women in the film are just there to justify the hero's violence. First, they put her through unspeakable horror, and use that as an occasion for brutal heroism. You can't even complain because that is, apparently, empowerment. No one quite abuses consequentialism the way a commercial filmmaker does. Not to forget the herds of people killed for the sake of an emotional punchline that never quite hits you where it is supposed to.
In this world, a seatbelt can be used to give a message while also being a sexy thing that segues into a song. A world of possibilities where time and space are mere suggestions. A man who is supposed to be in Kasi will appear in time to help someone in Ananthapur. Bala Krishna will stand in the foreground, complimenting someone in the background, and even if he points his finger in the opposite direction of where the man is, the viewer will understand who he is talking about. No one in the film is named Balayya, but the film will have a song titled 'Jai Balayya' because who is stopping them?
The film released in theatres on 2 December 2021.
Sankeertana Varma is an engineer who took a few years to realise that bringing two lovely things, movies and writing, together is as great as it sounds. Mainly writes about Telugu cinema.
The film’s first half is funny and throws up some interesting turns, the effort to hide which is proving to be a strain while writing this review. The humour is not of the laugh-a-minute variety, and owes more to these situational twists than to wisecracks.
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