Peace is a subjective hypothesis – Anubhav Sinha's latest film Anek deals with the way the idea of peace can often be Utopian and be subjective. Peace for one doesn’t always translate to peace for all.
Anek is a film about political conflict and cultural identity that puts the spotlight on Northeast India.
The action-thriller touches upon the Indian identity and, through its characters, presents questions about what makes a person ‘Indian’.
Ayushmann Khurrana plays an undercover cop Aman (alias: Joshua), tasked with assisting his superior in getting a peace accord signed between India and the Northeast.
“Abba bolte han, hum Indian nahi hain, is liye mujhe India ke team ke liye khelna hain”, says newcomer Andrea Kevischusa, who plays Aido, a boxer from the Northeast. Her dream is to earn a place on the national team so that her voice could be heard. Mipham Otsal plays Wangnao, Andrea’s father, a schoolteacher who secretly leads a rebel group.
Ayushmann essays the role with conviction, but some scenes could have been a little restrained. His performance would have been elevated if his character had more shades.
But he delivers as Joshua while making pertinent points – for instance, when he questions if those brokering peace are actually interested in achieving it. Or is it just a matter of exercising control? Then there's the dilemma he faces as to whether he should just follow orders given by the government he works for or do what he thinks is right to bring peace to the Northeast.
Ayushmann meets Andrea and befriends her as he tries to infiltrate a separatist group run by her father. Andrea plays her role with ease. She also plays Joshua’s potential love-interest, but I am glad the films sticks to what it sets out to do – tell a political story and not add an unnecessary love angle.
Then there's Emma, who plays Nico’s mother, a young boy who takes to rebellion. Emma shines in one of the most powerful scenes in the film.
Manoj Pahwa essays the role of Abrar and plays an important role as a peace broker – and he portrays it with ease. Even a stoic Tiger Sangha and J.D Chakarvarthy delivers applauseworthy performances.
Anubhav Sinha, who is not new to this genre of Hindi political dramas and has given us films like 'Mulk' and 'Article 15', tells the story to an evolved audience, that doesn’t need everything spelt out for them.
Even as some scenes in the film stand out and make you tear up, the director could have done better in the first half of the film. It was only after the intermission that the pieces start to fit together.
Anek uses powerful and effective imagery to make the ‘voice of the people’ heard, as Joshua would say. Scenes depicting police brutality, or the way power corrupts and oppresses people are are hard-hitting. The film places its faith in the old adage of ‘show, don’t tell’ and it works.
The soundtrack blends well with the subject, and special mention must be made of the folk song 'Oh Ku Takum' by Imnanungsang Tzudir.
Anek is preachy in parts, but the film has its heart in the right place and it could have done better if the film didn’t feel rushed, leading to less clarity.
The director uses a powerful scene to say that there are no winners in a political battle, unless you are the one wielding the power.
Our rating: 3 Quints out of 5