Sonakshi Sinha's Akira was originally the story of a man

Director AR Murugadoss made an inspired decision to cast an actress in a previously male-led film.

Suparna Thombare

Akira, starring Sonakshi Sinha in the title role, is a remake of the Tamil film Mouna Guru (2011), directed by Santha Kumar, with actor Arulnidhi playing the lead. The film was a sleeper hit and received generally favourable reviews. 

The success of the Tamil film inspired Kannada and Telugu remakes. The Kannada version, Guru (2012), starred first-time actor Jaggesh. The Telugu version, Shankara (2015), had Nara Rohit in the lead.

When director AR Murugadoss decided to remake the film in Hindi, however, he made one big change. He cast a woman in the lead role. The film is quite violent with its action sequences being a highlight. And Murugadoss was clear that he wanted his heroine to be no less than the heroes who have reprised the role of a short-tempered college student who gets embroiled in a crime plot.

“When most heroines are busy decking up, hopping from one set to the other, singing duets with different heroes, Sonakshi was learning to fight like a man. When she was performing stunts, I asked her to imagine herself as a man, to shrug like a man, to punch like a man, and to stare like a man. The way she transformed into Akira amazed me,” Murugadoss said in a recent interview.

We don’t feel that it is necessary to fight like a man on screen, and believe that a woman can be a fighter and retain her feminity at the same time. Some recent examples are Priyanka Chopra in Mary Kom (2014) and Jai Gangaajal (2016) and Anushka Sharma in NH10 (2015) and Sultan (2016).

Then again, the role of Akira naturally lends itself to a male protagonist and even Murugadoss cannot probably shake off its origins. Yet, kudos to the director for making the inspired decision, considering a male-led action film would have been easier to make and the budget would have been higher too.

The gender reversal holds promise. A badass action heroine set in contemporary India is rare. And we are still waiting for our share of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Charlie's Angels (2000).

Going solely by the trailer, Sonakshi Sinha seems to have the potential to be convincing as an action star.

Sinha, who trained for a good seven months before shooting for the film, is also revelling in the new angry young woman tag. After all, up until now she has been known mainly for doing unchallenging roles in mainstream star vehicles, with Lootera (2013) being the only exception.

“It's good when people start giving you tags like angry young woman for a character that is so different from the real you. As an actor I feel accomplished as my hard work has comes across the way I wanted it,” she said.

Akira is set to release on Friday, 2 September.