The Akaali Movie Review: A plodding mess that mistakes exposition for storytelling

The Akaali Movie Review: A plodding mess that mistakes exposition for storytelling

There is prodigious attention to detail when it comes to the making of The Akaali, but the same does not apply to its storytelling
The Akaali(2 / 5)

Filmmaker Mohamed Asif Hameed’s The Akaali plunges viewers headfirst into a world of chilling superstition. As a man (Arjai’s Selvam) stumbles upon a dilapidated building with grotesque statues and is shrouded in darkness while running away from a group of masked killers, his widening eyes speak of terror. The background music is already at such high decibels that it assaults our eardrums as the man looks at the statue with a dizzying sense of dread. It is as though he has never even seen such a figure before in his life. To be fair to the makers, the plot demands such a reaction from the character, but you hardly connect with it because it comes way too early in the film with very little buildup. Then, there is a character who comes way too late with a chunk of information dump and animation to drum up his arrival.

Director: Mohamed Asif Hameed

Cast: Swayam Sidha, Jai Kumar, Nasser, Thalaivasal Vijay, Arjai, Vinodhini, Yamini, Dharani

Everything in The Akaali operates at such hyperbolic proportions that it often comes across as a poke to provoke a response. Even a mere mention of the titular character’s name to a group of police officers elicits a strong reaction. However, it makes you wonder: Who is even the Akaali? And why should the character even matter? From a plot perspective alone, the Akaali is the head of a group of occult practitioners who prey on young women and sacrifice them in grisly rituals. But the film barely confirms the identity of the character as it plods along for a little over two hours only to reach a perfunctory climax.

The film is full of excess but is made with such passion that you wish it were slick enough to be a fun romp. There is prodigious attention to detail when it comes to the making of The Akaali. The fort-like building that is central to the plot, with its clutter and decay, looks believable enough to be a hotbed of dark magic and superstition. The makers also maintain an eerie and dark tone throughout, although the loud background music fails to make it unsettling enough. Parts of it are reminiscent of films such as Adam Joan (2017) and Tumbbad (2018). Unfortunately, however, the makers fail to pay the same attention to storytelling as they do with regard to production.

The heavy-handed approach to storytelling, with all the expository passages, is such a dampener. Take Swayam Sidha’s character, for instance. She is a law enforcement officer interrogating the lead cop, who looks into the central events in the plot. She interrogates the lead investigator, Jai Kumar's Hamzah Rahman, with a confusing mix of sarcasm and admiration. Her role becomes a vehicle for exposition dumps rather than a driving force in the narrative. Sometimes, it seems like she speaks to the audience's conscience because, by the end, even she seems lost, echoing their confusion about the true nature of the Akaali and the film's overall purpose. The scariest aspect? The lingering possibility of a sequel burdened with the same narrative issues.

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