Directed by Anirudh Iyer and written by Iyer (the story) and Neeraj Yadav (the screenplay), “An Action Hero” opens with RAW officers Mohan Sachdev and Saurabh Prakash meeting detained Bollywood actor Maanav in the UK’s SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) headquarters. They start interrogating him about someone named Katkar. But, with the statement that Vicky’s story is important, he takes us back to the 11th of September 2022. On that day, Vicky (the younger brother of Bhoora, Municipal Councillor of Mandothi, Haryana) went after Maanav for a picture with him. The two got into a fight because Vicky was being too rude about it. Maanav ended up pushing him. Vicky tripped over, hit his head on a rock, and died there on the spot. Realizing what he had actually done, Maanav ran away from Haryana to London with the vengeful Bhoora on his tail.
Major Spoilers Ahead
The Mainstream Media Doesn’t Want The Nation To Know Anything
The first few hints of what “An Action Hero” is saying about the mainstream media are in the scenes where he’s asked about Bollywood’s connection to the underworld and when Maanav watches how his answers are being presented on the channel. As soon as Vicky’s dead body is found, their proverbial fangs and teeth start to come out as a local journalist understands that this is the best opportunity to make some extra money in exchange for “inside information.” We see “entertainment journalists” rushing to get some information about Akshay Kumar’s love life. We also see “reporters” from channels such as News 24×7, the Local, Nabh Samachar, and Access India talking about how “Bollywood is falling apart” because Maanav is a prime suspect in Vicky’s death. And then we have those same “reporters” going on an overdrive to call for the boycott of all Bollywood films and hosting “political representatives” who are carrying out said calls for a boycott on the ground. However, as soon as the narrative flips and Maanav turns out to be the killer of Masood Abraham Katkar, those same “reporters” put him on their shoulders like he’s some kind of God. Only one of them talks sensibly, but it’s drowned in all the noise.
I would have said that one needs to have an acute understanding of how the mainstream news channels work in India in order to understand what Iyer and Yadav are commenting on. But, going by the numerous viral videos and coverage of these news channels by the BBC, CNN, etc., for the same reasons that you see in “An Action Hero,” you just need to be aware of world news to grasp it. Even if you don’t, trust me when I say that the portrayal of these “news anchors” and “media representatives” is incredibly accurate. We know that their job is to hold politicians, corporations, and every organization that is run on the public’s money accountable for their actions. Yes, the film industry might be a cesspool of corruption. However, it’s not as important as the institutions that run the country. The only reason Bollywood seems so important is because of the media’s obsession with it. It’s because the media knows that covering Bollywood will help them win in terms of TRP (television rating points). And it’s because the media knows that if they focus on Bollywood, they won’t have to do the research and groundwork that’s necessary to catch politicians, the police, and other corrupt private players red-handed.
The Arms Of Justice And The Administration Are Only Concerned With Perception
The first hint of how drunk on power someone can be if they are remotely related to politics is via Vicky’s adamancy about acquiring a picture with Maanav. Next, we see the Haryana police drinking on duty, getting slapped around, and then being forced to strip by Bhoora. That not only shows how irresponsible they are as the arms of justice but also that they are willing to stoop to any level to appease someone like Bhoora. And then there’s Bhoora, who is a Municipal Councillor who apparently goes on a killing spree to get Maanav and vent the general populace’s anger against such stars who take the people who pay to watch their films for granted. The Commissioner of the Mumbai Police is largely absent from the entire story. But he and his associates do swoop in at the last moment when they realize they’ve got the opportunity to frame Katkar’s death as a covert operation conducted by them and Maanav. The RAW agents, like the audience watching “An Action Hero,” become too engulfed in the story to notice the plot holes and are forced to cover the discrepancies with a thick coating of saffron, white, and green.
This is a pretty tough terrain to navigate because the ground reality is as volatile as it is shown in the film. Apart from a brief shot of a certain controversial minister jumping rope on a stage, “An Action Hero” doesn’t make any overt real-life references. But it’s enough to make the film’s commentary clear. Iyer and Yadav are admitting that they’ve given away way too much control to their representatives. There is a sense of realization that these representatives don’t have our best interests in mind, nor do they want to convey anything the public wants in a calm and articulate fashion. It’s very obvious in the Commissioner’s reframing of Katkar’s death and the administration’s use of the Hindi film industry to their benefit. However, the need to manage a publicly funded organization’s image is apparent in a subtle way when Bhoora laments how he isn’t going to be accepted by his villagers if he doesn’t avenge Vicky by killing Maanav. Right or wrong doesn’t really matter in scenarios like this. What matters is that a celebrity is “vulnerable” and can be exploited to cover an institution’s incompetence or bolster it with the help of their brand value.
‘An Action Hero’ Ending Explained: How Much Of Maanav’s Story Is Actually True? What Does It Say About The Content Consuming Audience?
The movie’s opening establishes the fact that what we are watching is Maanav’s recap of the events that have transpired over the course of 1-2 days. But then Maanav starts talking about the sudden death of Vicky. He introduces the movie’s boogeyman, Bhoora (there’s a shot that literally references John Carpenter’s “Halloween”), who kills loads of people. Maanav shows us how adept he is when it comes to hand-to-hand combat, parkour, gunplay, and escaping in a car while telling us that all this is his job and not his hobby. He introduces a guy named Sai, who is in touch with Kaadir (an associate of Katkar’s) as well as a Chinese hacker named Li Xian. He says that he’s a new-generation actor who can be the amalgamation of James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Jack Ryan on and off the screen because there’s no one to back him up. He happens to be in the room where Bhoora “accidentally” kills Katkar. And then, he proceeds to not only take on a bunch of Katkar’s henchmen but also shoots Bhoora in the head, thereby eventually presenting himself as the killer of one of the most wanted terrorists in the world. It’s only when we return to the interrogation room, where Maanav is sitting with Mohan and Saurabh, that we realize again that this is just Maanav’s version of the events.
So, what are the facts? To be honest, the scars on Maanav’s face, the photo with Katkar (because that’s the reason the RAW agents came to the UK in the first place), and the footage of Bhoora killing two police officers are the only things that possibly happened for real. I can also say that Maanav is involved in Vicky’s death. But the nature of the death is questionable. Because even though Bhoora says that Vicky worked out a lot, he didn’t look powerful enough to break the rearview mirror of a Mustang with just one blow. So, I am guessing there’s more at play. Every single fight sequence can be totally fictional, which is made apparent by the over-the-top and varied nature of the set pieces, the obvious switches between Ayushmaan and the stunt people, and Maanav’s smooth execution. Everything involving Sai, Li Xian, and Kaadir can be nonsense as well because the footage (if there is any) will be retrieved by the UK police. The one that Maanav got through a complex process is nonexistent. The biggest and most hilarious thing is Katkar. The man literally comments on his appearance and how no one knows what he currently looks like. Do you really think someone like him will expose himself so that the world can know that Maanav danced at his granddaughter’s wedding? That could’ve been some dude claiming to be Katkar. No one has his DNA evidence. Then how is anyone going to prove it? Even if they find out that it’s not Katkar, do you think the agencies are going to admit that they’ve just propped up a Bollywood celebrity as the world’s #1 hero? In addition to all that, the one person who was behind Maanav every step of the way was dead. He could’ve been the one who killed Katkar, saved Maanav from Katkar’s men, and was planning to take him back to India before he got further exploited by Katkar. The possibilities are endless, and Iyer and Yadav don’t give us any answers because that’s the point.
Despite talking about the mainstream media, politicians, the police (national and international), and more, “An Action Hero” actually wants us to focus on our relationship with Bollywood. We are far away from the film industry. Our only connection to these “stars” is through that screen. They are there to entertain us. We are there to be entertained. When we force their hands to do more, thereby crossing a boundary, or bring them into our worlds more than they should, the game of manipulation begins. We are an emotional bunch. The remote that’s in our hands is a mere illusion. When push comes to shove, a star is always going to opt for self-preservation and take advantage of the current trends to do two things: be popular and earn money. In this process, the media is going to earn money. The administration is going to earn money (legally or illegally). And the machine is going to keep moving forward. But what are we, the public, gaining from it? We are turning into someone else’s puppets and becoming propagators of hatred and venom. No one else is paying the cost of that but us. Then, what’s the point? Is this what we should be reduced to? No, absolutely not. We should talk about the medium of entertainment in terms of what it presents artistically, politically, etc. Because the filmmakers are giving us their opinion of how they view the world, we can opine on the same and have a discussion about it. Nothing else should come between us. If it does, things are bound to get uglier than they are right now.
“An Action Hero” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by Anirudh Iyer.