How “AK vs AK” Forged A New Bollywood Genre
How “AK vs AK” Forged A New Bollywood Genre

Vikramaditya Motwane’s new Netflix thriller — also a black comedy, an indictment of Bollywood, and a 108-minute-long inside joke — was seven years in the making.

Anurag Kashyap and Anil Kapoor in 'AK vs. AK' (Netflix)

Anurag Kashyap and Anil Kapoor in 'AK vs. AK' (Netflix)

In 2014, Avinash Sampath, an Amsterdam-based advertising professional, had a nutty one-line idea for a movie: what if a director kidnapped an actor’s daughter and then turned the father’s search for her into a movie? Originally from Chennai, Sampath felt that Bollywood had yet to attempt such a thriller and, in a country that glorified its celebrities, a showdown between two would find ample takers. But he had no connections to Bollywood and wasn’t a trained screenwriter. 

So he ended up sending a five-page pitch to Phantom Films (now defunct), a scrappy, new-age production house that emphasized stories over A-list stars. Its films included Lootera (2013), about a heist during the Bengal zamindari age, and Queen (2013), about a woman who is jilted at the altar but goes on her honeymoon, anyway. Two of the four founders were award-winning writer-directors Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane. 

Sampath heard back from Phantom Films within a week.

Motwane, whose striking directorial debut Udaan premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes in 2010, expressed interest in directing Sampath’s idea. Motwane convinced his long-time collaborator Kashyap, who had just wrapped up Bombay Velvet (2015), to act in it and then approached actor Shahid Kapoor to play the second protagonist. Sampath started working on a screenplay, and the film was christened AK vs SK. “We started shooting for a couple of days in late 2014, but then it sort of fell apart for a host of reasons,” Motwane told me over a phone call, including Shahid

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