Anek (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – A socio political, action thriller set against the geopolitical backdrop of Northeast India.

My Take – Having found his niche a few years ago, Ayushmann Khurrana has been on a dream run ever since. By consistently and successfully picking out commercial projects focused on unorthodox subjects, Ayushmann has truly become the face of content-driven films in Hindi cinema. And his latest too, is no different.

Re-teaming with Article 15 (2019) director Anubhav Sinha, who is still reeling in the success of his last film, Thappad (2020), the duo indulge in bringing focus on yet another hard-hitting subject – the plight of North-East Indian states, their people and issues. A rare commercial subject which was probably last touched in the long (and rightfully) forgotten Tango Charlie (2005), and goes out of its way in its refusal to condemn guerrilla fighters as terrorists.

Here, director Sinha and his co-writers Sima Agarwal and Yash Keswani create a deeply-political film that asks why people of certain parts of the country have to repeatedly prove their love and worth for their country, and echoes the deep-seated distrust that a section of the Northeast people have for the Delhi based central government.

Drawing from real images and events, director Sinha smartly unscrambles the politics of bluster and questions like whether the citizens really respect and celebrate the idea of India as envisaged in the country’s constitution.

Unsurprisingly, in his effort to simplify such a wide subject for laymen, the film fumbles on various occasions. Stitched together with multiple subplots, the film feels a little too stretched and tends to drag out its 147 minute runtime, without doing justice to all its elements.

Nevertheless, the political thriller has its heart at the right place, is no doubt made with the right intentions, and contains a story that deserves equal amount of empathy and interest. It also helps that the film is anchored by some superlative performances.

The story primarily focuses on Aman (Ayushmann Khurrana), a covert operative known for ending several challenging political agitations. In his latest mission, sanctioned by his superior Abrar (Manoj Pahwa), a prominent fixer for Delhi, and a well-connected minister (Kumud Mishra), Aman, under the alias Joshua, is sent to North East India, to create a situation that would force Tiger Sangha (Loitongbam Dorendra), a militant leader who runs a parallel government in the region, to the negotiation table and sign a peace accord with the central government, a process that has gone on for decades without any conclusion.

His mission also lets his path crosses with Aido (Andrea Kevichüsa), a talented boxer who has been humiliated for years as a non-Indian due to her appearance and culture. But is yet determined to become a part of India’s boxing team as she believes her recognition in sports would give her a platform to highlight the problems of her region on a national and international scale.

However, when a new faction, under a leader named Johnson, from the region begins to rise in prominence, Aman finds himself thrust into a deep political conspiracy that leaves him conflicted, both emotionally and professionally.

Given the plot, the film is high on patriotism and preachy in parts, but thankfully has its heart in the right place and never takes the form of jingoism. Here, director Sinha highlights the racial abuse that people from the North East deal with on a daily basis, their ordeal to prove that they’re as much a part of India, are great elements and do work in places. The alienation and a lack of opportunities have led to the youth taking up arms and demanding independence from India.

As the film points out, numerous peace accords have been signed, but there’s no sign of real peace. The assimilation of the people of the North East into greater India and its overall development is one of the main focuses. But there is too much to do in order the form a base and too little time.

As mentioned above the film is split into many sub plots. While the primary focus is on Joshua’s investigations, the rest of the run time is filled with Aido’s boxing career, the negotiations between Tiger Sanga and Delhi, Aido’s father (Mipham Otsal) a school teacher and social worker, the relationship between Aman and Aido, and a young separatist group consisting of a 14 year old Niko (Thejasevor Belho), who happens to the son of plant placed by Aman. It also doesn’t help that screenplay struggles to generate interest in its first hour.

For a film set in the hotbed of insurgency, it was important to keep the audience engaged throughout. For example, certain segments like Niko turning into an extremist is poignant and heart-rending, but when it is stretched beyond its potential, it stops working. In contrast, the second-half picks up pace and becomes aggressively violent as it nears the film’s climax.

Thankfully, the performances hold the film together. Ayushmann Khurrana is at his sincere best as an undercover agent who develops a conscience. He underscores his versatility once more through his rock solid performance. Debutante Andrea Kevichüsa‘s performance stands out due to her innocence and vulnerability that makes struggle feels more relatable.

Manoj Pahwa and Kumud Mishra are at their ruthless best. Mipham Otsal and Loitongbam Dorendra Singh are excellent in their inspired piece of casting. Emma and Thejasevor Belho shine in one of the most powerful scenes in the film. J.D. Chakravarthy makes his presence felt in an interesting cameo. On the whole, ‘Anek’ is a flawed yet thought-provoking political thriller skillfully shouldered by its ensemble cast.

Directed – 

Starring – Ayushmann Khurrana, J.D. Chakravarthi, Manoj Pahwa

Rated – R

Run Time – 147 minutes

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