The matured filmmaker Anubhav Sinha touches upon the political, social issues that still plague India’s North East Region.
By Mayur Lookhar
Anubhav Sinha has emerged as a brave filmmaker who has touched upon grave issues such as patriarchy, casteism, Islamophobia in the society. The director is now shifted focus to the political, social issues that have dented the progress of our states in the North East. The NER [North Eastern Region] comprise of eight states – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura.
Quite a few of these states have had their long outstanding political issues, both domestic as well as border conflicts with a powerful neighbor China and the nagging issue with extremist groups that have long troubled both Myanmar and India. In the last two decades, Indian national government, [both Congress alliance and later Bharatiya Janata Party) have made concrete efforts to bring peace and stability in the region. Perhaps the more pressing political issue concerned around the state of Nagaland. However, government’s efforts have helped in curbing the violence and bring out a certain political stability with many militants giving up arms.
Anubhav Sinha wisely doesn’t pick any particular state as his film looks to address the conflicts in the North East as a whole. Based on the trailer, one can assume the chief problem here appears to be resolving around Nagaland but as Ayushmann Khurrana’s character says in the trailer, the region has seen 30-40 separatist groups. One can safely assume that film will be subtle in its depiction of the political crisis plaguing the region with regional and ethnic sentiments being respected. If one studies the nature of the conflict in the region, we will learn how a lot of these conflicts have been borne out of ethnicity, ancient history that is also seeped in Mongoloid culture.
An Anek would have been more useful when the political situation was not so healthy few decades ago. The government and all the concerned North East players will be keenly waiting for the release of Anek. The good thing here is that the political issue is just one part of it. Sinha’s film also touches upon the social issues, bias faced by the people of North East within our country. From being called Chinkis [derogatory term against North East citizens that is now punishable by law] to character assassination, our North East brethren have been subject to various bias and stereotypes. Director Nicholas Khargonkar’s much acclaimed Axomi  dealt with the subject so maturely in the Netflix film. In the Anek trailer, we’re reminded about the political ignorance where a separatist character laments how an Indian minister wrongly called the state of Tripura as the capital of Mizoram. Wipe out the names from the map, and truth be told, many Indians would struggle to pinpoint the North East states, it is an apt dialogue here.
In Anek, it is the youth that gives us hope. We have a young female boxer Ido [Andrea Kevichüsa] who harbors big dreams, while her father appears to be on a ‘separate’ political mission. You have to admire how the female pugilist is determined to play for India despite her father not acknowledging himself as Indian. Could this man be the head of the rogue Johnson group? Note, it’s only a handful of bad eggs that bring shame to a state, community. The sport dream naturally triggers Mary Kom nostalgia, and thus adds Manipur into the mix of things here.
The trailer amply makes it clear that the film will not target a noted political, separatist group, but the villains here appear to be a rogue separatist organization that clearly doesn’t want peace. Don’t be surprised if the fictitious Johnson group is shown to be secretly backed by a powerful neighbour or the extremists in Myanmar.
Ayushmann Khurrana’s character appears to an intelligence officer/ agent or an army officer assigned to help in facilitating peace talks between the separatist groups and the Indian government. Things appear to be going smoothly till this rogue group Johnson gets violent. There are hard hitting visuals most notably a book on Mahatma Gandhi being fired at. While the film will touch on anek (aplenty) issues, but it also carries a message of inclusivity for our North East brethren. A future cannot be set without the problems of the present being resolved.
It is pleasing to see a Bollywood film pick so many talents from the North East and not cast non-North Eastern actors. Anek is likely to hype up Khurrana as an action hero. However, the brawn aspect shouldn’t overshadow the larger issue at hand. While he does wield the gun, but Khurrana’s character is driver of peace here.
An Anubhav Sinha film is unimaginable without the two stalwarts Manoj Pahwa and Kumud Mishra. The trailer ends with a powerful message of embracing Indianness rather than individual, regional identity. The powerful trailer sets the ball rolling for what promises to be another thought provoking thriller from Sinha.
Anek is set to be released on 27 May in theatres. Watch the trailer below.