There was a time when filmmaker Sreenu Vaitla’s name was synonymous with entertainment. Whether it was a hilarious sequence featuring a bunch of quirky characters taking a dig at each other, or paying homage to pop culture, there was always a method to the madness. However, with time, like every other product which comes with an expiry date, this format and narrative style too became a tad too cliched. Now, it’s just plain boring. His latest film, Amar Akbar Anthony, starring Ravi Teja and Ileana D’Cruz has all the makings of a typical Sreenu Vaitla’s potboiler, but it finds itself in a web where its good moments are nearly ruined by its absurd characters and writing. The funny moments fall flat which leaves the actors to overcompensate with pointless conversations. But the biggest drawback of the film is, perhaps, the weight that Sreenu Vaitla seems to have carried on his shoulders that the film has to be funny and thrilling at the same time. It just doesn’t work most of the time.
In the film, Ravi Teja stars as Amar, who has a dark past. After he’s released from prison, he goes on a mission to avenge his family’s death; however, his task isn’t that easy. Elsewhere, there’s Pooja (Ileana), who has a secret of her own. The story is about how Amar and Pooja accomplish what they set out to achieve. At the outset, it might seem like a simple revenge drama; however, since that has been done to death already, Sreenu Vaitla adds layers to both Amar and Pooja’s characterisation. Both of them are clueless about why their behaviour changes whenever they hear or see something that reminds them of their past. This ‘trigger’ becomes a plot device, especially when it comes to showcasing Ravi Teja in an interesting manner.
Much like how Ravi Teja is conflicted about what’s happening to his life, Sreenu Vaitla too is conflicted about the direction he wants the story to take. The film has a well-conceived backstory, which works as an emotional anchor to the whole plot, but you can’t help but feel that the director won’t dig into it unless it’s absolutely necessary. Because when you have a star like Ravi Teja and when your own reputation suggests that you are adept at handling comedy, it probably leaves very little band-width to explore intense emotions. As dark as the actual story of Amar Akbar Anthony is, Sreenu Vaitla injects it with a lot of humour, which is often unnecessary and acts as a hindrance to the narrative. In an ideal scenario, Amar Akbar Anthony should have been a taut thriller about people who are haunted by their past. Instead, it ends up being an action-comedy-family-drama, with a message in the end. In other words, Amar Akbar Anthony becomes one of those films which is too generic by the time the curtains are down and you are not even sure if you want to relive the experience.
Prior to the film’s release, there was a suspense over whether Amar, Akbar, and Anthony are three different people or if it’s one person taking on three roles. While Sreenu Vaitla addresses this question quite early in the film, the way these characters are brought to the forefront is just irksome and rather silly at times. There’s a scene in the film where Ravi Teja says, he is clueless about what’s happening to him. By the time, we figure out what’s happening, we are more likely to repeat a phrase which one of the characters often uses – “I’m strong. You’re strong. We are all strong.” It’s anybody’s guess why the film’s USP has to be explained every time it’s used as a plot device. You can just see it coming from a mile away.
When the only interesting aspect of the film doesn’t feel interesting enough, Amar Akbar Anthony leaves us with no other option but to focus on smaller aspects. For instance, the skyline of New York and Detroit which looks beautiful; and how convincing Ileana sounds when she speaks her lines in Telugu; and how good the two child actors are. Even when everything else looks jaded, there’s some hope that the narrative will get interesting at some point. The beginning portions of the film bury this hope deep in the snow on the East coast of US. Thankfully, it’s the second half, encompassing the emotional parts of the film, which comes to our rescue. It’s probably not enough to cure the maladies of the film, but it just about makes sure that Amar Akbar Anthony doesn’t leave you with a bitter aftertaste. Yet, the whole experience leaves you disappointed that neither Ravi Teja nor Sreenu Vaitla didn’t quite explore the tremendous potential that the idea behind this film had.