Aks  
Producer: ABCL
Director: Rakesh OmPrakash Mehra
Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Manoj Bajpai, Raveena Tandon, Nandita Das, K.K. Raina, Amol Palekar
Music: Anu Malik
Lyrics: Gulzar

Released on: July 13, 2001
Approximate Running Time: 3 hrs
Reviewed by: Narbir Gosal
Reviewer's Rating: 8.25 out of 10

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It was arguably one of the most awaited films of the summer! Aks is supposed to be the redefinition of a īhatkeī film for Indian cinema. For once the director can stand by his claim, Aks is indeed like nothing before seen on the canvas of the hindi cinema screen! Although there are infulences borrowed from such Hollywood hits as Face Off and Fallen, Aks moulds a story which is rooted deep within our culture, and although it may seem unbelievable to some (because of the supernatural theme) the film succeeds in keeping you glued to the screen for the most part.

The film begins in Budapest with our hero Mannu Verma (Amitabh Bachchan), who heads National Security. Mannu is in Budapest with the Defense Minister to get a floppy disk carrying the names of some dangerous people, and it must be obtained before the future of our Nation is jeopordized! At the same time Mannu has come to know that the Defense Ministerīs life is on the line. He is being hunted by Raghavan (Manoj Bajpai), a coldblooded killer who enjoys taking the life of his victims. So Mannu has his hands full with obtaining this disk and at the same time protecting the Defense Minister from the assasin! Sadly the Defense Minister is killed and along with him the Floppy has also dissapeared and itīs now up to Mannu to find both the disk and Raghavan. Meanwhile Raghavan is plotting to take the PMīs life next! This leads Mannu on a wild goose chase to find Raghavan and when he finally does, Raghavan (who is not willing to cooperate) is taken back to stand trail for a series of gruesome killings. The film explodes (almost literaly) when it comes down to Mannu and Raghavan, who after a series of events, are left holding guns to one another. The guns go off, and with that Mannu Vermaīs life begins itīs darkest and most tumultuous chapter.

The theme of the film is awesome! Aks is the first film of itīs kind in Hindi cinema, a supernatural thriller, which explores the battle between good and evil inside the body of one man Mannu Verma. What may work against the film however is that our audiences are not used to such a script and may reject the film. Aks requires you to leave all logic at the door and open your mind to the possiblities of what could happen in another realm. Itīs very much like the Hollywood Flicks (Fallen, X-Files etc.) in the sense that, although the film is very smartly written, the main theme is an unlikley scenario. There are some confusing scenes in the film which will leave the audience bewildered. Rakesh OmPrakash Mehra has to be given a pat on his back for attempting to make such a bold film. Although his screenplay is a little loose, his directing style is excellent for a first timer. However the second half of the film lags and at times, the pace is uneven and slow in portions and the climax is stretched out for far too long. An extra hour is added to the film because the direction falters. It bores you and depresses you, which will limit any repeat value, the film could have possesed. Rakesh seems to have concentrated more on style and taken a bit of a rain check on the substance which is spread out unevenly in the film. There are two songs which could have been left on the editing table, but ultimatley it is the diretors decision. Still he makes good use of special effects and there are some excellent scenes which should set a new trend in Hindi Cinema. The scene with the tearings of the masks is so well handled, and it puts all those other īspecial effects scenesī to shame! The confrontation scenes between Mannu and Raghavan are handled with expertise. Rakeshīs handling of the song picturisations is excellent. Bollywood should be happy to have such a talented director amidst them. Mr. Mehra is a technically superb director which is obviously something he picked up from his ad film days. The film looks on par with most Hollywood films throughout!

Performances are first rate from the four main players. Amitabh Bhachan has given one of the best performances of the year as Mannu Verma. His acting range and capabilities have evolved with this performance, one that will stand with him for the rest of his years in Bollywood! The scenes after he is possesed with Raghavanīs ghost are chilling and very effective(although it is due to the mixture of the actual performance and the chilling sound effects in the background). His expressions throughout the film are extremley well carried out and appropriate, he breathes life into the character and you can see he has gotten into the skin of Mannu. If you thought Ek Rishtaa was a good performance then hold on to your seats for this one folks! Manoj Bajpai has also given a praiseworthy performance. Many people may find it over the top, but it seems to be intentional. His voice modulation gives the character a new spin, and is effective. The intensity of his character is displayed very well through Manojīs facial expressions. Manoj actually succeeds in scaring you in some scenes, however he is somewhat overshadowed by Big B. Nandita Das as Mannuīs wife Supriya does a competent job. She doesnīt have a huge role, and her characterisation is a little sketchy, but Nandita does her best to instill life into the character. The scene where she is physically abused by her husband is very well shot. Yet there is hardly any long term affect on her character. She is unconventionally beautiful, and looks great in her scenes. Raveena Tandon as Neeta the club dancer is actually good in her limited role. One wouldnīt expect much from such a role, but her scenes with Amitabh are excellent. Raveena also looks like a million bucks, and dances well. Her look in īRaat Aati Haiī is sleek and sexy, and the much talked about strip tease in īYeh Raatī is a bold move on her part but very nicley put together!  K.K. Raina as Raghavanīs brother Mahadevan is menacing, but wasted. Amol Palekar as the chief minister has a small but effective role. The other supporitng cast does their job well.

Technically the flick is amazing! The picturisations of Yeh Raat and especially Aaja Gufaon Mein are fantastic! The latter song will stick in your memory for a long time to come! Choreography is simply spectacular and the foreign dancers do a good job matching steps with Raveena! The cineamtography is absolutley fantastic! Kiran Deohan is a mastermind! His eccentric use of unusal camera angles is an asset to the film. Also the use of lighting and lenses on the camera are a brilliant idea. They bring out the good vs. evil conflict much more effectivley! Action by Allan Amin (Mission Kashmir) is well carried out and adds to the appeal of the movie. He has come up with some spectacular scenarios in the film. Manojīs wilderness scenes are well planned and chilling, the waterfall scene is spectacular, and the action scenes between the two main leads are done very well! Anu Malikīs songs may have taken a while to catch on, but the picturisations will definitely help! The unusual music with itīs poetic and innovative lyrics by Gulzar come to life so well on screen, especially in the numbers invloving Raveena Tandon. The film scores a perfect 10/10 on the technical front. Watch the scene where Mannu looks in the mirror, you will see technical brilliance.

All in all Aks is a must see film for several reasons. Mostly because Amitabh Bachchan is in what is possibly the best role of his life and gives a spectacular performance, but the technical brillinace of the film is brought out so well on screen that missing it would be a crime! Sadly the film majorly falters with the uneven pace and the length, which is definitley going to work against it. Mr. Mehra needs to work on his story telling before beginning his new film Awaaz. Also a theme which has to this day reamined unexplored in Hindi Cinema may be a stumbling block for the director. Aks comes as a shining light in the times of silly romances like Mujhe Kucch Kehna Hai, or trashy comedies like Jodi No.1. For the first time in my life I can say that I have finally seen that often talked about but scarcley seen īhatkeī film!