- Release Date: 02/12/2021
- Cast: Nandamuri Balakrishna, Pragya Jaiswal, Jagapathi Babu, Meka Srikanth
- Director: Boyapati Srinu
Murali, a philanthropist, and protector of the people of his constituency is grossly wronged and imprisoned by some nefarious people who are mining Uranium in his area causing wide-scale destruction, diseases, and deaths. Once Murali is imprisoned, the villains come all guns blazing against his family and all the people who aided him in his efforts to thwart their evil plans. Little did they know that Murali had a twin brother who was handed over to the Aghoris by their parents at birth and who is now in control of some superhuman abilities that he has garnered with his years of worship and dedication to the Mahakal. Akhanda walks into Murali’s world and everything is changed for good.
Nandamuri Balakrishna is a visibly 60-year-old playing a 30-year-old unmarried Murali that should have been played by someone who atleast resembled a 30-year old man. Balakrishna looks older than the man playing his father in the film and still has the audacity to break into a snazzy-ly choreographed song-dance routine, “Jai balayya” where his drooping shoulders and withering frame cannot be camouflaged by the toned-down dance moves and hyper editing.
Murali is portrayed as someone who inspires romantic feelings in a stunningly beautiful IAS officer played by Pragya Jaiswal who goes out of her way to impress him. This is laughable for any thinking audience. Every time the two are in the same frame, the age gap between the two is evident and pronounced to the extent that it not only destroys any chemistry that the two are trying to conjure up but also makes a mockery of the entire situation rendering it awkward. It isn’t the first time that male actors have romanced women half their ages but in this case, it feels more pronounced than some of the other instances adding to the weirdness of the situation. Interestingly, everything that works against the Balakrishna in his rendering of Murali becomes his greatest strength when he bites down his teeth into the character of Akhanda.
While Murali is in captivity, the villains try to murder his entire family but as luck would have it, his wife, Pragya Jaiswal, and their young daughter end up in the layer of Akhanda who quickly and skillfully kills every goon that was after the life of Pragya and her daughter. Following this Akhanda walks into the world that his brother had been protecting and nurturing for all these years and quickly starts delivering his brand of justice to the men who are out to destroy it. This not only shakes Murali’s enemies to the core but also makes them come after him with everything that they have at their disposal. This ensures that the second half of the film is practically one action sequence after the other with Balakrishna dispatching evil men to their final destination in terrific style and with a thumping S. Thaman background score pulsating in the background.
As I sat through this 2 hours and 47 minutes long film, something interesting dawned on me. This wasn’t a film that I should have enjoyed but I was having a great time with it. The story was archaic and reminded me of the 1980s’ poorly made Bollywood masala potboilers. The hero was a droopy old man with not a single heroic trait that we associate with heroism and yet every time he walked out on the screen I couldn’t help but break out into a boisterous cheer along with the rest of the audience. The villains were the over-the-top caricatures of every evil trait possible and were bad in certain situations just for the sake of being bad. The hero on the other hand was pristine in every possible way. There was no duality in any of the characters. This is a film where people are either white or black. The only strong female character in the film starts off as strong and independent but halfway through the film loses her voice and never regains it. With all this and more, I should not have enjoyed this film as much as I did. So what was it that clicked for me?
After much deliberation, I feel that it was the obviousness of the entire film and the character’s acceptance of it that was the first thing that made this film unpretentious and uproariously fun. The next thing that made it so much fun was its unabashed and aggressive execution and portrayal of the hero and the villains. The villains are shown doing terrible things that make them instantly detestable and we want to see them die. There is also a large number of these villains that are pitted against the hero so that he doesn’t quickly run out of men to kill in the second half and a character as towering as Murali is substantially threatened and requires the intervention of a superhuman like Akhanda.
The biggest sentiment that the film caters to is the fact that we are all sick and tired of being wronged in some way or the other in real life. We always enjoy watching some of these wrongs being undone albeit in the most outrageous and out-of-the-world sort of a way. This is what we get here. Akhanda gives us wish-fulfillment of the highest order and that is what makes it so alluring and exciting. Coming to the protagonist of the film, Balakrishna sheds all his inhibitions and garish makeup and disappears behind the skin of Akhanda. His look and mannerisms suit the character and the fact that he is portrayed as someone who is tattooed, unkempt, and almost animal-like augers well for the age that he is in. He plays a man of his age as Akhanda and he does so with stunning and almost unbelievable physicality.
Due credit must be given to how the action sequences are shot, edited, and scored. S. Thaman’s score is once again something that greatly elevates the appeal and fun of the action sequences. The film’s appeal also rests on the fact that Akhanda is a superhuman and embodiment of all that is designed to destroy evil. This aspect is depicted through the larger-than-life-action set pieces where we see him dispatch men in hordes and even turn into a nearly godlike avatar. He kills the primary villains in the most innovative manners possible and each of these kills is met with thunderous applause from the audiences documenting the success of the execution of what the director, Boyapati Srinu set out to achieve.
I remember watching Boyapati Srinu’s Sarrainodu featuring Allu Arjun during my travel in one of the buses that ply between Guwahati and Silchar. It was just as loud and crass in its treatment of its subject matter as Akhanda but it was also captivating. I couldn’t look away from the screen as the story of Gana unfolded in all its ferocity and unforced comedy through the portion involving Brahmanand. It was also a film that felt like two different films between the first and second half. I got a very similar vibe from Akhanda with just the exception of an Aghori taking the centre stage instead of a well-groomed young man beating the pulp out of villains. Sarrainodu would match up to Akhanda’s deafening pitch and outrageous physicality if it was high on coke. Akhanda is an out-an-out entertainer that appeals to the hidden urge of being a hero and protector in all of us. It knows how not to take itself seriously. Most importantly, its aging hero lets everyone believe that even the most unassuming and un-hero-like individual can be the most ravishing hero if fate wills it so. This is what inspires the viewers to dream with the director and also forms the basis of the success that Akhanda enjoyed in just about a few weeks.