Anek has anek issues that put it off-track

Ayushmann Khurrana plays an undercover agent in Anek. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

Anek (which means ‘many’) has many issues with it. For one, Anubhav Sinha, unlike his three previous issue-based films—Mulk, Article 15 and Thappad—is not into audience connect with coherence this time. The grittiness that characterized his earlier “serious” (as in genre or subject) work is conspicuous here by its absence. The title itself is not really apt for the content too.

There is serious contradiction here between intent and execution, or maybe it is intentionally misshapen execution, with the “politically correct” stance adhered to by a certain section of Indian citizens. It is ridiculous, for example, that Kumud Mishra, playing a politician, talks almost farcically, of “making a film” out of a surgical strike he is planning against an insurgent. Clearly then, Mr. Sinha does not seem to have a high opinion of URI: The Surgical Strike or the series made on Uri or Pulwama—and those who facilitated them.

So never mind our soldiers or the exemplary actions by the government!

Somewhere, we feel Sinha has a personal grouse against the current government. He makes Manoj Pahwa play Abrar, a government official who is a Kashmiri Muslim with his own agenda for the North-East. The politician who calls the shots is played by Kumud Mishra. We find the term Article 370 being used with an element of sarcasm, and we have the North-East generalized without specific mention of which region is disenchanted with the Indian government. At will, people talk in their regional language and switch to Hindi.

And then, who knew while the film was being made of a giant audience revolution and revelation called The Kashmir Files?

The confusion (and convolution) is heightened when we find the insurgent’s leader Tiger Sangha (Loitongbam Dorendra) who has been fighting for his people (for what specific point is not really clear) for 60 (!) years is also running several illegal activities!! Then there is the mysterious Johnson who no one has seen.

The unrest justifies a peacemaker from the Indian government and that is Aman (Ayushmann Khurrana in his sketchiest role to date) whose main characteristic seems to be sniffing frequently. Aman is an undercover agent posing as Joshua, and he feigns an attachment with aspiring National level boxer Aido (Andrea Kevichüsa) who is discriminated against for her ethnic origin and yet is determined to represent India.

Aido lacks family support as her father Wangmau (Mipham Otsal) has his own militant outfit and is anti-India. There is also a café owner woman, whose teenage son wishes to be a part of the militants. This justifies a lullaby kind of song from his mother, and in time, he obviously earns a bullet when Joshua has promised (why?) to protect him.

Loads of gun battles take place, Aido finds out that Joshua is not what he seems to be, and Aman is also disillusioned by the system. And while Aido realizes her dream of fighting for India and wins, her father, after many a bloodbath, almost smiles at Joshua and admits that violence is not the solution to any problem.

The 2.20-plus film is as confused (and thus confusing) and convoluted in the first part as it is in the second, and more crucial, half too.

To be sure, Ewan Mulligan’s camerawork is praiseworthy even in the bloodied and violent sequences, the action ably choreographed by Stefan Richter and Simon van Lammeren, with excellent VFX by Amit Malviya and team. But there is little else to recommend in this wannabe-significant but vacuous and even misguided look at issues that seem to be crafted rather than genuine, albeit with a tenuous real base.

As is the norm in Anubhav’s cinema of late, we get excellent performances from his favorite actors Kumud Mishra and Manoj Pahwa, and also Mipham Otsal and Loitongbam Dorendra. The actor playing the small boy is also very good and Andrea Kevichüsa as Aido is excellent in a not-so-fleshed-out one-dimensional role. As for Ayushmann, in his socially-conscious phase of career, this is the second role he should have nixed after Gulabo Sitabo.

Anubhav Sinha, because of his talent and range that we know (from Tum Bin to Dus to Mulk and Thappad) should now stop making movies to just gain acclaim from the pseudo-intellectuals and feather his pockets. He should think “Audience and Hindi cinema first and last” and go the purposeful and versatile way of the likes of Neeraj Pandey, Nitesh Tiwari, Anurag Basu and Rajkumar Hirani rather than get into zones where he will finally have only pitfalls.

Rating: **

T-Series Films & Benaras MediaWorks’ Anek  Produced by: Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar & Anubhav Sinha  Written by: Anubhav Sinha, Sima Agarwal & Yash Keswani  Music: Anurag Saikia  Starring: Ayushmann Khurrana, Andrea Kevichüsa, Manoj Pahwa, Kumud Mishra, J.D. Chakravarthy, Loitongbam Dorendra, Mipham Otsal, Deeplina Deka & others





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