Director: Anubhav Sinha
Writers: Anubhav Sinha, Sima Agarwal, Yash Keswani
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Manoj Pahwa, Kumud Mishra, Andrea Kevichusa, JD Chakravarthi
Cinematography: Ewan Mulligan
Music: Mangesh Dhakade
Editing: Yasha Ramchandani
Released in theatres.
Mulk (2018) onwards, Anubhav Sinha’s filmography has seen a paradigm shift. Anek is his fourth release in four years. While, Mulk is his best work in terms of writing, Anek is a technical knockout. The film is shot like guerrilla-filmmaking; but with a top-notch production scale, owing to the space and brand Sinha has created for himself.
In Anek, Ayushmann Khurrana plays Aman aka Joshua, an undercover cop trying to find the head of a rebel group called Johnson. The group was formed by the Indian Government as a strategy to trap the dreaded main man of the rebels Tiger Sanga into signing a Peace Accord. Tiger’s demands include a flag of their own and a separate constitution which the government can’t let them have, of course.
There’s also a man suspected to use Johnson’s name to plot his motives and actions. The man has a daughter Aido (Andrea Kevichusa) who wants to represent India in kickboxing. The father is fighting against India, and the daughter is fighting to play for India. Then there is the Home Minister, or PM, not sure, (Kumud Mishra) and the National Security Advisor (Manoj Pahwa) who are negotiating with Tiger Sanga over the Peace Accord.
There’s also another undercover cop in JD Chakravarthi who is behind Aman aka Joshua. Aman realizes that as JD is behind him, Abrar is behind JD, there must be someone behind Abrar too. We get the gist of how the security or any political system works. You make two dogs fight with each other until one is finished. Later, you plot another dog to finish the survivor.
It will take some time for you to get an understanding of what’s happening and what’s at stake, and for the most part you’ll be clueless (or wondering) about where all of this is headed. Well, that’s a reflection of how ignorant the mainland is towards the beautiful but turbulent part of the country. The Kashmir issue gets the headlines but the North East and its people have never really been accepted by mainland society or its arts & entertainment. The writers and director dedicate the first half of the film for world-building and helping the viewer become acquainted with the setting, its people, and its politics.
This world-building is enabled by Ewan Mulligan’s breath-taking cinematography. What’s remarkable about Sinha’s last four films is that he has not only picked up serious issues but has constantly experimented with filmmaking techniques. Anek is a film that could have tested your patience had it not been for its stunning original background score which elevates the pace of the narrative even in some conversational films. There’s a lot to be admired and learned in the way the score is created and used in the film. Since it’s a T-Series film, they can easily release the film’s background score as an album. Take a hint from the soundtracks of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) and Moonrise Kingdom (2012).
Also read: Ayushmann Khurrana: ‘Being an unhinged risk-taker worked for me because I walked the path less-travelled!’
The other music of the film, original songs by Anurag Saikia, is melodious, fresh and is the music of the soil. The film’s music comes as a much-needed palette cleanser. It’s an issue-based film, and the director here is trying to tell an important message. So, some verbose is a given. Cinema is ‘show, don’t tell’. But who are we to say that the rule needs to be always followed? And for the Indian audience which has been spoiled for the worse by spoon-fed storytelling, a little bit of preachy storytelling doesn’t look like a bad idea. But smart editing makes sure that the scenes linger on for an effective duration only. This just reminded me of a video where a frustrated David Lynch on the sets says, “Who gives a [email protected]#king sh!t how long a scene is?”
The end credits roll is used effectively by parallelly running a scene where Aman and Abrar celebrate Aido’s achievements on the world stage of kickboxing and giving us the closing thoughts on empathy and inclusivity towards the North East and its people. Anek is an important, thought-provoking ‘Anubhav’, pardon my pun, it was inevitable. Go experience it in a cinema hall – a community experience.