Anek: An Admirable Effort But Lacks Focus

With MulkArticle 15 and Thappad Anubav Sinha has created a strong niche for himself. Each of these three films has covered important socio-political issues. For example, Mulk was about the growing Islamaphobia in the country. Article 15, on the other hand, was about a young police officer who comes upon the horrors of caste discrimination. Lastly, Thappad looked at whether a slap can lead to divorce. All these were powerfully made films that stayed with you for a long time. With his latest Anek, the director shifts his focus to the mostly neglected north east. Omung Kumar’s Mary Kom was also set in the northeast but Anek falls in a very different zone altogether. This is a highly political film which talks about the alienation and lack of opportunities for the youth in northeast. The director focuses his lens on the racial abuse faced by the people of northeast.

There is no denying that Anubav Sinha makes an important statement through Anek, but having said that the script is all over the place. Anubav Sinha jumps from one issue to another. You get the feeling that cramming of too many things is happening. It looks like Anubav Sinha was bombarded with too many ideas.

Anek tells the story of a secret agent Aman (Ayushmann Khurrana) who goes by the name of Joshua. He opens a café in a city somewhere in the northeast. This café becomes the base for his operations. He has been sent by the government to neutralize Tiger Sangha (Loitongbam Dorendra Singh), he is a militant leader who runs a parallel government in the region. The government wants him to fall in line and sign a peace accord. Along with this you also have the track of a boxer Aido (Andrea).  Aido wants to become a part of India’s boxing team. Her reasoning is recognition in sports would give her a platform to highlight the problems of her region.

Her father Wangao (Mipham Otsal) is a revolutionary who believes that independence isn’t necessarily earned through guns. Wangao’s belief is that independence can be won through social reforms as well, interactions with these two changes Joshua. He begins to question the motives of his handler Abhar (Manoj Pahwa). There is also Kumud Mishra playing the wily minister. Last but not the least JD Chakravarthy also makes a comeback to the screen as another agent. What follows is a complex political thriller covering many burning issues.

First and foremost Anubav Sinha deserves credit for how he shows the militancy in northeast. They are never branded as terrorists but as revoluntaries. A lot of effort has gone into understanding what makes these young people take up arms. There is a distinct empathy which comes out. Also the film never goes into the jingoistic zone in spite of the political background.

Some of the conversations strike a definite chord, they make you think. For example, there is an important conversation between Ayushmann Khurrana and JD Chakravarthy about what makes someone an Indian. Is it the place where you come from, the language that you speak etc? The film also dwells into how the idea of peace can be utopian and also be subjective. This particularly comes out through JD Chakravarthy’s character.

Ewan Mulligan’s cinematography is another major plus for Anek. It is perfectly in tone with the requirement of the film. The cinematographer shows both the aesthetic beauty of northeast along with the destructive side. 

One of the factors that pull down Anek is the lack of coherence. This is majorly due to the tone that Anubhav Sinha has adopted. In telling too many things the direction often becomes indulgent. More focus was also needed on developing the characters of common people. A good example of this is the Andrea’s Aido. The character is too sketchily written for you to completely empathize with her.

The half baked romance between Ayushmann and Aido isn’t convincing in any way. It could have been either avoided, or be written in a better manner.

The overtly political nature also alienates the audiences somewhat. The first half in particular has too much of politics.

As expected the performances of the cast are on point. Ayushmann Khurrana is as dependable as ever. He once again shows his versatility as an undercover agent who develops a conscience. Andrea makes a confident debut, some rawness is there in the emotional scenes but there is no denying that Andrea has a bright future. Manoj Pahwa stands out in the supporting cast. He imbibes the necessary ruthlessness. It is also good to see JD Chakravarthy in his role of the field agent. He makes his presence amply felt.

In a nutshell, Anek is a step in the right direction, but more finesse would have made it memorable.

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