Relevant and serious subject matter succumbed to lackluster storytelling and a turtle-speed storyline

Ayushmann Khurrana is truly a happy-boy of Bollywood cinema. He gave content-driven sequel films which no other Bollywood actor of his generation has managed to do. He always chose the right subject, and each time it was a different subject. With Anek, he brought to light a new subject, but the film ends up dark. Ayushmann and Anubhav Sinhaa’s previous release, Section 15 (2019), is one of my favorite films of recent times and without a doubt the duo’s best work to date. Anek brings them together for another important and serious subject, but the duo fails to deliver what we expected of them.

The film deals with a hard-hitting subject matter that hasn’t been touched on until now, but goes badly with the storytelling that has nothing for regular moviegoers. A budding patriotic film without chauvinism. Well, that’s not the main problem, but it’s still a problem. The biggest problem is the slow-paced narrative that fails to hold your attention.

Anek is a socio-political action thriller set against the geopolitical backdrop of northeast India. As complex as it may seem, on reading, the film has a head start on complexity. The film focuses on an undercover cop, A man a.k.a Joshua (Ayushmann Khurrana), who is on a mission to bring peace to the North Eastern region of India. Aida (Andrea Kevichüsa) is a talented boxer who has been humiliated for years as a non-Indian due to Northeastern culture and appearance. Joshua encourages him to play for India as he is embroiled in a political plot to keep the war going. It’s his opinion in relation to political decisions, but there’s a lot of maze talk that makes this a powerful story. However, the storyline is too slow to count you into a show as you find it almost as effective as a sleeping pill.

Ayushmann Khurrana has given many fine performances and with each film he has raised the bar for himself. With Anek, it does not raise it higher, but certainly remains at its level. The character of Haman/Joshua doesn’t have enough shade to show it its caliber. He has an accent and attitude throughout the film that is all too common for an “undercover cop”. There aren’t such clever moves for either of them, which could have made his character a whole lot more interesting and versatile. Nonetheless, he carries the whole movie on his shoulder, and that’s enough for this lackluster movie.

Andrea Kevichüsa gets a forgettable role in her debut. I can’t say horrible, but his character is not accessible to the common viewer. It’s not just the accent, but the whole personality that sets it apart from the mainstream, and after all the struggle, all it has to offer is predictable drama. Manoj Pahwa was such a gem in Section 15, but here his talent was wasted. Or maybe the complex character structure made him that way? Not sure. It’s such a complex mix, even from the writer’s perspective, that you don’t connect with any of the supporting characters in the film. Deeplina Deka, JD Chakravarthy, Kumud Mishra and Loitongbam Dorendra are decent but nothing sticks in your mind.

The technical aspects of Anek came out better than expected. The background score works well a few times, with a few irritating overly loud segments. Also, the action sequences are too real, so they look like documentary sequences. Ewan Mulligan’s camerwork is good, while Anurag Saikia’s songs have found the essence but not the beats. Anek could have been easily cut, but it’s still the same name that makes it dull. Editing by Yasha Ramchandani was done Thapad quite a boring affair, and Anek joined the same club. A strong point is the dialogue. Impactful and meaningful.

Anubhav Sinhaa is one of those directors that I started to look up to when he delivered good sequel movies like Mulk (2018) and Section 15 (2019) after movies like Species (2007), Ra. A (2011) and Tum Bin 2 (2016). But then he lost shape with Thapad (2020), although he got his hands on another difficult subject, and now Anek actually two in a row. First, it’s Sinhaa’s writing that’s at issue here, then it’s the direction. Anek looks so clueless and off track for more than half of its runtime that you can’t head or tail it. New characters suddenly appear, some suddenly disappear, and most of the time it’s the linear equation that seems lost.

Anubhav Sinha repeats the same mistake. He keeps his narrative too serious and intense, unnecessarily. Also, the long duration makes it a boring seminar. Anek has no commercial appeal, but it doesn’t even have enough artistic merit to qualify as a good attempt at art cinema. Overall, the movie has an important concept but doesn’t live up to the hype the subject matter needed. If you liked Thapadthen you will like Anek too, but if you liked Section 15 more, then you better see the same movie again.

Jessica C. Bell