Anubhav Sinha’s ‘Anek’ is a socio political, action thriller set against the backdrop of North-East India – one of the most gorgeous and least explored regions in India, also fondly called as the Seven Sisters States (comprising of Mizoram, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland) connected via Siliguri Corridor, the narrowest stretch of land of around 20-22 Kms; and the only way to reach the Seven Sisters States.
Though Anek is about gunfights and boxing to some extent it obviously tries to find an answer to what it means to be an Indian! It asks some very pertinent questions about the political conflict and cultural identity laced through relevant dialogues. Through its various characters, Anek examines the political conflicts that have afflicted the North-East.
The narrative of Anek is broken into parallel sub-plots that together drive home the point. There is Aman/Joshua played by Ayushmann Khurrana, an undercover cop. It is his journey when posted to the North-East region to get a peace accord signed with the head of the largest militant group – Tiger Sangha. Aman/Joshua infiltrates amongst the locals and befriends a militant group members’ daughter Aido (Andrea Kevichüsa). Her dream is to find a place in the National boxing team, enough to prove her belonging; an ambition to play for India but faces racist discrimination.
There is a mother and her young son and a narrative from their perspective – what they expect from Joshua and what future do they see with him ‘on their side’. There is also Aido’s father Wangnao (Mipham Otsal) who covertly leads a rebel group against Government forces in the disguise of a schoolteacher.
While the locals feel being left out and resort to violence, Aman and his team look for peaceful talks, but things don’t seem to work out. Somewhere in the later half, Ayushmann Khurrana poses this simple question to his senior; what it means to be Indian – is it the language one speaks or some other traits!!
In an understated performance, Ayushmann Khurrana delivers his lines with endurance. His character Aman is bogged down, caged in a system that incites unrest while simultaneously punishing those who fight for political autonomy.
Debutante Andrea Kevichüsa looks confident, and her expressions are spot on. One can feel the pain when she parts with her father on a note that her father cannot stay back and cheer for her in her bout, nor can she align with his actions. Both have their separate battles to fight.
Like Anubhav Sinha’s various other features, this is a welcome departure from the Nationalistic chauvinism that has ruled Bollywood. However, cine-goers looking for ‘entertainment’ might get disappointed. Anek is one film meant for a niche audience who have a track of the goings on within the Nation. For others it could be an eye opener to facts or situations lesser known.
Anek is a rare commercial cinema that highlights North-East Indian stories and goes out of its way to refuse to condemn guerrilla fighters as terrorists. Here, violence is not a spectacle, but rendered as the inevitable symptom of subjugation and intolerance. Anek might look informative in its presentation, but it is that kind of information that injects political integrity into the cinematic landscape.
Does Joshua triumph in his mission to unite the country? Will Aido succeed in winning a medal for India. Anek is a heart wrenching tale that questions what it takes to be an Indian above all the divide that the country faces.
Being Indian is a sense of belonging rather than being limited to regions and biases. Though on a lighter note, but we do have slangs (gandabhai…, kanjoos… ghaati… etc.) that divides us based on regions and maybe lead to trust issues. Only a strong leadership can help inculcate the feeling of being ‘Ek’ (one) and not ‘Anek’. Anubhav Sinha has strongly communicated via the chest thumping cheer ‘Jeetega Kaun… India’.
Director: Anubhav Sinha
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Andrea Kevichüsa, Manoj Pahwa, Kumud Mishra, J D Chakravarthy
Duration: 147.50 mins