An Action Hero (2022) Review: A Hero the Nation Needed, Albeit Not More Than Bollywood Itself

An Action Hero 2022

More than any previous year, Ayushmann Khurrana, our beloved social-message hero, has been particularly consistent at giving didactic films since the early months of 2022. While “Anek” came across as a reverse-engineered slog that talked down to its audience, Anubhuti Kashyap’s “Doctor G” lost its clever second-half potential through the sloppy writing that led to it. Thankfully, the year ends with the actor delivering upon a movie that tones down its social messaging; by deflecting its narrative strongholds with a clever slant towards satire, the actor as well as the entire industry have come up with their most personal outing in a long time.




In “An Action Hero”, Khurrana plays, well, an action hero named Maanav – a Bollywood superstar who flees to London after he accidentally kills a respected Haryanvi politician’s young brother. The young man was a fan who crossed the line, but he came with a deeper purpose (at least to him). What were Maanav’s intentions behind doing this? He spends the rest of the film overseas, away from the law as well as from the victim’s cold-blooded brother. But in this post-truth era, he can’t keep himself away from the news media, can he?

An Action Hero Review

The very familiar jargon this time forces him to become a real-life action hero. What would his odds be against an army of an entitled audience on one side and a hyper-ventilating media on the other? What kind of a message would a youth icon of his stature – as he very self-awarely claims at the beginning of the film to the media– be giving to the nation after disrespecting a politician’s ego?




As the movie enters its second half, filmmaker Anirudh Iyer along with screenwriter Neeraj Yadav make you see how this isn’t just another post-truth era Bollywood comedy trying to put out a social message; while cloaking itself around the fabric of meta-commentary, “An Action Hero” also sheds light at the timely era of moral and social relativism that the Indian audience is living in, that not only affects the foundations of their beliefs, but carries the potential of them no longer being able to distinguish, or simply not care about objective truth.

The movie, thus, upends its genre tropes, while also subverting things one may expect from a mainstream Bollywood film. In doing so, it pulls the rug from under our feet by visually reinforcing how we so easily conflate showbiz glam and power with performative jingoism.




Ahlawat plays the part with a straight poker face. He’s a man bemused by a national responsibility that he takes upon himself more than anyone else actually placing it on him. The actor threads on the love-hate aspect of the dynamic shared by the character with the Bollywood hero perfectly well, which sprouts into some of the best use of allegories seen in an Indian film all year.

Almost all crucial pieces of information are conveyed here musically, weaved into the soundscape of a movie that constantly keeps moving. For instance, the use of ‘Aap jaisa koi’ from the 1980 Bollywood blockbuster “Qurbani” marks an arrival of a character that very well shaped the perception of the industry in many ways and casts its shadow on it even today. This time, however, the purpose of rejigging an old hit adds to the narrative as it creates a stark contrast, thus, denoting both what’s changed and what’s been lost along the way.




 

As the titular protagonist’s name itself suggests, “An Action Hero” is more about Bollywood’s own uphill battle to push back against the hate-brewing machinery of the state than anything else. There are multiple scenes in which Bhoora literally comes at Maanav from his back, or simply walks in through the door just to subtly make his threatening presence felt. It all works, because the film doesn’t have to be social in order to lay out what’s at stake; the very presence of each character in itself is political, with each participant acting as a cog in the larger wheel of things beyond our control. This may not be an action hero everyone wants, but is certainly one that the nation needs.


Related: Changes In Bollywood In 10 Years


An Action Hero (2022) Official Trailer

An Action Hero (2022) Movie Links: IMDb
Aryan Vyas

Aryan Vyas is a film critic who shares an equal fascination towards science and philosophy. Alike most cinephiles, he too believes that films carry the potential of acting as windows to peep into different cultures in search for the human condition. He has written for publications such as High on Films, Film Companion and Asian Movie Pulse. Through his write-ups, he looks at the artform through a sociopolitical lens, as he believes art is always better consumed knowing the subtext.