Onto the next release of the weekend and I finished watching the Hindi film Anek. Right from the time its trailer was out, I was really looking forward to watching the film. It tackled an important issue from the North East of India under Article 371 which has lead to unrest amongst some of the clans. Now this is pretty much similar to Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir which was recently revoked. But this bit of information maybe oblivious to the common man who resides in rest of the country. To add to that the racial slurs being faced by a few people from the North East, only makes matters worse. I was anticipating all of these points to be included in the narrative of the film.
But shockingly, at the time of writing the review, the film has been written off by many reviewers. And it almost made me skip its theatrical release! Eventually I decided to give this film a go, preparing myself for the worst yet hoping for the best considering that it was a very different attempt wherein a story from the North East was making its mainstream debut in Bollywood. So then is Anek worth your time, this is my honest and unbiased thoughts on it.
Story & Screenplay
Anek is a film addressing multiple issues from the North East part of India. Now addressing any topic/issue related to the North East will not be easy considering the fact that it is complicated and just a 150 minute runtime may not be enough. But the very fact that such a movie has been attempted makes for a huge round of applause. Ofcourse, each state will have its own set of problems and combining it under the “North East” category may not be appropriate. But that would not mean that the issues which are being discussed in the film should be brushed under the carpet. If there is an issue, it needs discussion which the film does while weaving a tale around it.
I have always maintained that as a reviewer your job is to stay unbiased and focus on the film rather than its agenda. But I did see certain reviews and could almost see an agenda through them. Either the reviewers were ignorant of the issue or a scholar of it with the way they were questioning the intent of the film. But coming to the screenplay, the writers opt for a verbose one, something which we did witness in Anubhav Sinha’s previous work Mulk as well. You have to understand that this is a dialogue heavy film. So if you as a viewer do not have the slightest inkling of the issue being addressed, you will more likely be lost in the film.
The film tries to go through a bunch of issues involving the locals, the officials and the rebels(through different interconnected plots and subplots). The proceedings are interesting although the film is a slow burn and it would cater to only a limited section of the audience. The method implied here is of telling the viewer about the issue instead of showing it. Now, I didn’t quite mind this technique which has been used in several foreign language films too. What this demands is your complete attention to the lines. Only then will you fully get a crux of what is happening throughout the film. If you are looking for entertainment, you won’t find it. Another aspect was that the proceedings were kept subtle and not in your face(an example of which was The Kashmir Files which was in your face). So the momentary shift in the narrative might be lost if you aren’t completely focussed.
But the film has its set of flaws too. I felt the characterization of almost all characters was a major flaw. There was a trade off between addressing the issue or making it a specific human tale. While the former did work for me, the latter could have been better as you do not feel a sense of connection with any character. But having said that the proceedings are cerebral and interesting with interesting anecdotes(and potshots) thrown in the narrative time and again. This culminates into an effective final act summing up a restrained yet sincere screenplay. The messaging of unity in diversity is a great one and something which I cannot emphasize enough especially in today’s times.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are verbose but very effective in being able to put across the point. The music is underrated and the songs go wonderfully well with the narrative. The BGM is stupendous and it deserves distinction marks. The cinematography is outstanding, the action set pieces are brilliantly choreographed. Director Anubhav Sinha in his fourth outing since his 2.0 avatar does an incredibly good job. I felt it was important to educate the audience about the issue more than weaving a fictional tale around it. Hence, he opted for a verbose approach and did a stupendous job here. His hunger in exploring different topics is commendable too.
The performances are excellent here despite the major issue of characterization or the characters lacking depth being omnipresent. Some major characters are essayed by actors from the region and for that the casting director Mukesh Chhabra needs to be applauded. Kumud Mishra and JD Chakravarthy are first rate in their respective cameos. Jatin Goswami as Major Veer has his moment to shine. Manoj Pahwa is incredibly good and he is one actor who genuinely tried to add depth to his character which came off as extremely layered. Loitongbam Dorendra as Tiger Sanga is excellent although I wished for an extended screentime for him. Andrea Kevichusa as Aido looks pretty and packs a solid punch in an underwritten character. Ayushmann Khurana as Aman aka Joshua is impressive too and it is heartening that he is continuing to experiment and move away from the genre where he was getting repetitive. He is incredibly good here in a well measured performance. All other actors are pretty good.
Anek is an unsettling and uncomfortable narrative tackling an important issue. It may appear to be verbose but if you are willing to dig deeper you will really enjoy it and applaud its sincere attempt. Available in a theatre near you.