Ayushmann Khurrana gives the most unAyushmann Khurrana like performances when he collaborates with director Anubhav Sinha, as we saw in the fantastic Article 15. The actor and director get together once again for Anek trying to tackle an entire different issue.
In an interview, Khurrana had mentioned that Anek isn't solely meant to entertain but spark a dialogue as well. Sparking dialogue? That the film definitely does masterfully but to entertain - that factor misses out. Having seen the film before hand, here's what I thought of it-
Anubhav Sinha 2.0 has been a treat so far, as we have seen in multiple films already. Be it Mulk, Article 15 or Thappad, these have been finely directed films. All these films had subtlety while also trying to invoke a conversation. With Anek though, Sinha loses what made the above mentioned films so fantastic - the combination of engagement, entertainment with dense information. While Sinha is spot on with his direction when it comes a couple of brilliant long one-take sequences, his research and awareness about the topic; he doesn't manage to make it engaging and entertaining enough for a rational viewer. While all the other aforementioned films had difficult topics, it was Sinha's direction and treatment that made it palatable but unfortunately, that doesn't happen with Anek, where it just ends up being a bombardment of information.
The Story & Screenplay
The one thing you cannot fault Sinha for is selecting this story which is so important. The story is set in the geopolitical backdrop of Northeast India where the residents aren't even ready to call themselves 'Indians' and have several separatists groups. The casual racism on Northeast Indians and the atrocities they faced is powerfully adapted into a storyline by Sinha. It is however, the screenplay that falters. Sudden shift of scenes seems incomplete and the screenplay by Sima Agarwal, Yash Keswani and Sinha himself ends up overly complex and intricate as opposed to engaging.
If there was one department that I was the most disappointed by - it has to be the dialogues. Purely because, the dialogues in Sinha's recent films have been some of the best ever. The long caste monologue in Article 15, the courtroom long dialogue in Mulk, and Taapsee's breakdown scene in Thappad had some of the finest lines. And even though there is a token and smartly written dialogue here as well, overall - the lines just feel too bland and technical. You can play a drinking game for the amount of times the words 'peace accord' is used throughout the film - you might be super drunk by the end of it.
The Music & BGM
There music and background score is indeed praiseworthy, especially the BGM. There are extremely dense scenes which can even disturb one if there wasn't rousing music to back it up. But that is definitely the case with Anek and the tunes of those intense scenes keeps you a tad bit engrossed.
An applaudable department for Anek has to be the cinematography by Ewan Mulligan and Dhananjay Navagrah. The camera manages to capture the serenity of the Northeast and its beauty while keeping up the haunting and terrifying nature of the subject matter in an effective manner.
The biggest props that Anek deserves - has to be for representation. Casting Andrea Kevichusa as the leading lady, Loitongbam Dorendra Singh as Tiger Sangha and others, these actors are brilliant and for a specific reason - because they are natural and authentic. They are themselves and they relate to the subject matter more than anyone else. Furthermore, having veterans like Manoj Pahwa and Kumud Mishra is another casting call that elevates the film.
While we have already talked about other actors and their performances, it all comes down to the leading man, Ayushmann Khurrana himself. As mentioned, he moves away from his usual commercial cinema genre and goes entirely different with his performance. He somehow adopted a weird character trait of nasal inhaling for the role which doesn't land and in some places and his performance even feels a bit sketchy. But even then, overall, he does a fine job and being the main man, he leads the way in a resounding manner.
While Sinha has become a master with his combination of presenting a social issue while making it engaging and entertaining, that becomes a hit-and-miss here with Anek to an unfortunately large extent. It is still a brave attempt overall and most importantly, does spark dialogue as it intended to.
Rating - *** (3/5)