Akelli review: Nushrratt Bharuccha is outstanding in survival drama | Bollywood - Hindustan Times
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Akelli review: Nushrratt Bharuccha is outstanding in survival drama that doesn't always stick to logic

Aug 23, 2023 09:00 PM IST

The intention behind Akelli appears similar to The Kerala Story, yet the creative liberties taken in this Nushrrat Bharuccha-starrer are a bit too far-fetched.

A teenage, helpless girl is standing in the middle of the road, tied up with explosives on her chest. Her mother stands at a distance, crying for help. The bomb squad is trying to diffuse the time bomb and save her. A minute later, we hear a loud explosion, with dust and fire engulfing the surroundings. Everyone standing nearby runs for their life. In that spine-chilling moment, you know that Nushrrat Bharuccha-starrer Akelli is not going to be an easy watch. (Also Read: Nushrratt Bharuccha: Never gone out looking for a female-led films, it comes to me)

Nushrrat Bharuccha plays the lead role in Akelli
Nushrrat Bharuccha plays the lead role in Akelli

Inspired by the true story of a Middle Eastern woman, Akelli is a story of grit, conviction and determination. Also, it depicts the atrocities women face at the hands of terrorist organization ISIS. Director Pranay Meshram shows blood and gore with a clear intention to evoke shock value while also leaving an impact. Akelli is shocking and scary, but rarely convincing.

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What's Akelli about?

The film starts with Jyoti (Nushrratt) trapped in a combat zone in Iraq. In a flashback, we are told she hails from Punjab, where she lives with her mother and niece. She must find a job to pay off family loans. In desperation, she gets lured by a job agent (Rajesh Jais) and agrees to work as a factory supervisor in Mosul, Iraq.

Upon landing there, her co-worker-turned-friend Rafiq (Nishant Dahiya) explains to her how ISIS members arrive in the factory and capture all the women to turn them into their sex slaves. Jyoti's fate meets an unexpected turn when she lands at ISIS leader Asad's (Tsahi Halevi) house, where she meets more victims whom he often sexually abuses. She tries and fails multiple times to save her life and of a few others, to escape from the clutches of the ISIS and return to her country. But can she really make it?

How's the narrative?

At 127 minutes, Akelli is well-timed and thankfully, doesn't digress. Though I felt dialogues were too ordinary and lacked that punch. At times, even the screenplay gets too convenient. We are made to believe that whatever is unfolding on screen is actually possible, while in reality, that might not be the case. The way Jyoti manages to escape each time from the deadly situations, with hundreds of armed men guarding the dark dungeons and jails, looks a bit unbelievable. Meshram's story, which he has co-written with Gunjan Saxena and Ayush Tiwari, lacks logic, and it's hard to overlook that. Even though the narrative keeps you intrigued, you do question the practicality of the situations.

How's Nushrrat?

What stands out amid the story and its screenplay is Nushrratt delivering a stellar performance. She steps out of her comfort zone to get into the skin of this character from the word go, and she shines in every single frame. Nushrratt exudes confidence while portraying this challenging and physically taxing part. There's a scene where she's hiding in an aircraft and her silent screams will give you chills. This could be her best performance by far.

Fauda actor Tsahi Halevi is as good, or bad, as it gets in his Bollywood debut. With his fetish for handcuffs, and penchant for torturing women, you hate him for his barbaric ways. There is a scene where he's singing the Arabic song Wayak, just before he sexually assaults Jyoti. That's one intense scene. Nishant Dahiya plays a short and sweet role and has a charming screen presence in whatever limited screen time he gets.

The Kerala Story connection

As for the subject, we saw The Kerala Story a few months ago. The Adah Sharma-starrer also sowed innocent Indian girls being converted into Islam and then being taken to Syria so they end up as sex slaves. The intention behind Akelli also appears similar — to familiarise us with the brutal ways of ISIS — albeit, the creative liberties taken in this one are a bit too far-fetched.

Akelli doesn't let you breathe, literally and metaphorically. It's a difficult watch, and is not for the weak-hearted. Watch it if you must, only for a spectacular performance by Nushrratt.

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