Nushrratt Bharuccha in ‘Akelli’

Nushrratt Bharuccha in ‘Akelli’

Desperately seeking a job to fulfill family responsibilities, Jyoti (Nushratt Bharuccha) lands in Mosul, Iraq to work as a supervisor in a garment factory. As she lands, Jyoti finds the land is anything but peaceful. With the Iraqi Army caught in a bloody game of hide and seek with the Islamic State, the civilians can easily get caught in the crossfire.

In Rafique (Nishant Dahiya), Jyoti’s well-meaning Pakistani manager, she finds a support system that allows her to find her feet in a region that seems arid in more ways than one. However, before the unlikely romance could bloom, she is kidnapped by the ISIS fighters and is taken as a sex slave.

Director Pranay Meshram sets the stage for a compelling survivor drama but plots it in such a ham-fisted way that the film never truly makes you afraid or anxious about the fate of Jyoti.

After a stirring introduction to the terror-infested terrain where a girl child is turned into a ticking bomb, the writing and execution could not hold on to the tension.

A few perfunctory flashbacks later, the idea of putting a young, ordinary girl in Mosul where the Islamic State is spreading its tentacles prepares us for a realistic, living-on-the-edge kind of experience but what we get is typical Bollywood theatrics, interspersed with some grainy videos, where, apart from religious sloganeering, there is hardly any difference between IS fighters and the lustful goons of a mafia hiding in a dilapidated building behind a black dusty hill. The little detailing that dots the narrative comes courtesy of the imaginative use of drone cameras. Apart from that, every time Jyoti gets trapped in a do-or-die situation, the writers come up with a convenient solution that anybody who has surfed the OTT platforms could foresee.

Israeli actor Tsahi Halevi who plays the antagonist Assad has a strong screen presence and a booming voice but in the absence of any detailing and real purpose, his character is reduced to a cardboard begging to be punched at the first opportunity. If the idea was to keep it pulpy, the makers could have laced the narrative with a pinch of humour and irreverence. The veneer of seriousness doesn’t work.

A competent actor, Nushrratt is at her dramatic best and literally fights a lonely battle to keep Akelli afloat but the tonality of the film is such that perhaps a female version of Vidyut Jammwal would have been a better choice. As of now, the thriller feels much longer than the 120-odd minutes it takes to unspool.

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