Picking controversial yet current topics that require dialogue and then basing a film on them may sound like a good idea, but it doesn’t always work out. Anek, Ayushmann Khurrana’s recent film, is a perfect example of this. Anek is directed and written by Anubhav Sinha, who worked with Ayushmann Khurrana again after the critically praised Article 15 (which was centred on caste inequality in India). More so because Sinha’s last three directorial endeavours — Mulk, Thappad, and Article 15 — all struck the correct note and successfully started a dialogue, but with Anek, he simply couldn’t produce an immersive experience that leaves you thinking long after you leave the theatre. Anek’s goals are all over the place, starting with a tale that is a little confused to begin with, followed by a narrative that appears convoluted in most parts. Sinha tries to handle a lot of subjects in a 2-hour-30-minute film, but he can’t possibly do them all right.
Anek is a film set in North East India about an undercover agent named Joshua (Ayushmann Khurrana) who is on a mission to restore peace in the Northeastern part of India and the political crisis that has afflicted this region for a long time. During the course of his mission, he meets Aido, a Northeastern Indian boxer (newcomer Andrea Kevichüsa) who is battling prejudice while pursuing her dream of making the Indian national team. Aido’s father, Wangnao (Mipham Otsal), is a schoolteacher who is secretly nurturing a rebel group against government forces, and Khurrana has an unusual tryst with him.
Sinha has picked up on the right elements when it comes to hiring actors from the North East, authentic locales, conversations, and the gravity of the issue he wants to stress, but he fails to weave them into a captivating plot that will keep you captivated. The first half of the movie is devoted setting up a premise that never really comes to fruition. The first half of the film seemed to be a little rushed, with more time spent on character development than depicting the genuine anxiety that residents in the North East face on a daily basis.
That said, Anek is a patriot who, happily, never descends into jingoism, which is all too common in Hindi films. The way Sinha has attempted to depict the racist hatred that people in the North East face on a daily basis, as well as their effort to prove that they are as much a part of India as everyone else, are wonderful components that work in places. You can’t ignore the fact that this is one of the few commercial films to seek to focus attention on the troubling situation in the North East, which many people talk about but few have the confidence to investigate further. Following in the footsteps of films such as The Kashmir Files, Anek is unquestionably a significant and timely film. I only wish Sinha’s co-written screenplay with Sima Agarwal and Yash Keswani had been a little more concentrated in its execution. Kevichüsa, who makes her Bollywood debut with Anek, gives a good first performance, albeit I think her character should have been developed out a lot more with more to do than just boxing in the ring. When she realises what Joshua and her father are up to, she doesn’t do anything you’d expect in a circumstance like this. Wangnao, on the other hand, has a significant character arc. He elicits an emotion that you might be able to relate to. Kumud Mishra and Manoj Pahwa, among the supporting cast, put their years of experience to good use and offer some memorable scenes.
To summarise, Anek has the proper heart and is built with all the right intentions; yet, the execution is a little underwhelming, and the story is not one that everyone will grasp with equal empathy and interest.
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, J.D. Chakravarthy, Andrea Kevichüsa, Manoj Pahwa, Kumud Mishra
Director: Anubhav Sinha