Director Anubhav Sinha returns with another political thriller, Anek. It centres on a fierce undercover agent Aman/Joshua (Ayushmann Khurrana), who is on a mission to unite the country. He navigates a conflict-ridden region of Northeast India. Where he is posted to facilitate a Peace Accord with the largest militant group and its rebel leader – Tiger Sanga.
As a part of his mission, Joshua tries to infiltrate a separatist group by befriending one of its member’s daughters, Aido (Andrea Kevichusa). A ferocious boxer, Aido dreams of winning a gold medal for India.
Even though she faces discrimination at every step, Aido continues to fight for a spot on the national team, hoping to be accepted as an Indian by making the country proud. Will Joshua triumph in his mission to unite the country? Will Aido get to prove her mettle?
Sinha has never been one to waive the flag, with chest thumping. His idea of patriotism revolves around highlighting a national issue and finding solutions to resolve it.
Although, I must admit, I do prefer the positive nationalistic approach, Anubhav is a fiery filmmaker who does not hold back in diving into insurgencies within our country.
His camera work is like a hand gripped firmly around the neck, shaking the audience to a reality which has existed for years. The close-ups, constant movement with action, adds to the intensity and visceral appeal.
Visuals like a group of separatists locked up like sardines in open cages and girls slapped with racial slurs like ‘Chilli chicken’ are heartbreaking to watch. Sinha juxtaposes the lush green of Northeastern valleys with bloodshed of young brainwashed revolutionaries. These visual representations makes one stomach churn.
I, as an Indian felt extremely disheartened how people in their own country feel like absolute strangers. After watching The Kashmir Files, it hurts to see anyone from their own home being pushed away and face persecution.
Narrative wise, the director unveils divisions within divisions. First, is the conflict of ideologies by separatists in the Northeastern region. Second, is the conflict within India’s central government. How these two ‘insurgencies’ of sorts collide escalates into a labyrinth of bloodshed. Gandhian ideologies like non-violence is emphasised and subtly digs at the right-wing political parties.
Especially by mocking the ideas of ‘surgical strikes’. But the points, although preachy at times, make sense. Ideologies are presented through characters of various walks of life and sensibilities. These make it a balanced presentation. However, since I am not aware about political details of insurgencies within the region, I cannot really comment on how accurate the depiction is.
The first-half is a major slow-burner. It takes a while for the characters and crux to be established, but certainly needed. By the time, the second half commences, audiences are immediately engulfed into the action. Khurrana’s narration is foreboding. It feels like the voice-of-reason amidst the chaos unfolding.
Interestingly, in his previous collaboration with Sinha, Article 15, he played the insider trying to resolve disparity. Whilst here, he plays a complete outsider trying resolve this long-standing issue. Ayushmann is terrific, as always. Though there is a trope of him sniffing repeatedly, I didn’t quite understand this aspect.
Andrea Kevichusa makes a promising debut. Her eyes are solid as she fights for her dream to make India proud in boxing. Her character represents so many other aspiring talents, who wish to make their country gleam with pride. I also love that talents from Northeastern are included – as actors and in the background score.
Glad to see an accurate and humanised representation. About high time that ‘Indian’ artists get the dues they rightfully deserve and not just because they hail from a certain part of the country. Anyway, it is also lovely to see JD Chakravarthy (though in limited screen time), Kumud Mishra and Manoj Pahwa.
Violence is never the answer. But is peace inflicted or evoked? Anek really sparks this debate. It shakes one up from the core and does justice to the prejudice faced by people across the seven sisters of India. It has been a long time coming. I am proud of being Indian and will always be, no matter how the country is. At the same highlighting issues and how we can resolve them is also patriotism.
⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 (3.5/5 stars)
Watch our interview with Ayushmann Khurrana and Andrea Kevichusa here: