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aNEk: Making a Case for Indian Diversity

aNEk: Making a Case for Indian Diversity

aNEK

Anubhav Sinha’s latest film aNEk explores what defines ‘an Indian’as opposed to being a North Indian, a South Indian, a West Indian or an East Indian.To just be Indian.

By Manjulaa Shirodkar

Scriptwriter-filmmaker Anubhav Sinha once again returns to the peripherals in our ‘Indian’ mind. This time its about issues, people, regions and music belonging to our achingly beautiful North East India. Without painting a caricature of them, without demeaning what their hearts desire and without being condescending –Sinha takes a close and heartfelt look at why dissent is at once rebellious and political.

And why its important to understand the rebel’s voice and the reasoning behind it instead of trying to quell it mercilessly; why its critical to remind us and them that they are Indians – first and foremost. He also scrutinizes why making the Tricolour proud at all forums – domestic and international is important for all of ‘us’.

What is centre-stage to one set of individuals could beincidental to another set. Be it exploring the issue of casteism in Article 15, religion in Mulk or now the North East in aNEk, Sinha has never shied away from discussing a variety of issues from multiple perspectives – without losing sight of his Left leanings. For far too long, successive governments and people in other parts of the country have taken North East India for granted.

Sure, its an integral part of India for strategic and military reasons but its people and its culture for long have been considered the ‘other’ and ‘outsider’– not always but often referred to in derogatory terms such as ‘Chinki’ and ‘Chilly Chicken’ by the so-called ‘mainstream citizens’ from the rest of the country.

On their part, Indians from the North East haven’t considered themselves Indians either – identifying more with neighbouring China instead. And its this neglect and ignorance from the former combined with a desperate desire to break away to define their own identity by the latter that has kept the two apart. aNEk is an attempt to bridge that gap.

Ayushmann Khurrana in aNEk

Ayushmann Khurrana, who has been redefining the role of the classical Hindi film hero in most of his outings, dons a different persona in aNEk too. Playing an undercover agent Aman/Joshua, Khurrana is at once the hero and the villain in a film where insurgency and idealism form the sub-text.

The plot follows Aman who has been assigned to the North East to send intel, on insurgency groups threatening peace in the region, to the Central government. He befriends Aido(Andrea Kevichusa) whose only dream is to win a medal for her country India, in her chosen sport of Boxing and thereby become a voice for her people. She can then speak for them – one on one, with the rest of the country.

Nagaland actress Andrea Kevichusa makesher mark in Bollywood with "aNEk
Nagaland actress Andrea Kevichusa makesher mark in Bollywood with “aNEk

But her father feels differently as a rebel, and is possibly Johnson (an identity originally floated by Aman to penetrate rebel groups). Meanwhile, Tiger Sangha is another separatist who controls drug cartels, smuggling and other nefarious businesses to fund his vision of a separate country independent of India.

As the leader of the biggest rebel group in the NE, the Central government makes overtures to convince Sangha to surrender, accept the Indian Constitution and form his own state government – promising him that the other rebel groups will be made to fall in line. But first, he has to give up his dream of an independent nation and flag.

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Even as Sangha is on the verge of signing a ‘peace accord’ with the government, Johnson’s group rears its head and turn the tables on both – the Central agencies and Sangha. Who is Johnson; who is using the identity created by the Centre but on whom they’ve lost control –leads to a cat and mouse chase as Sangha tries to eliminate competition and agencies zero in on Johnson because they can’t have their cover blown!

Sinha’s screenplay combined with stunning cinematography by Ewan Mulligan are the highlights of the film which has been shot in Assam and Meghalaya. Apart from Khurrana, Kumud Mishra, Manoj Pahwa and J D Chakrvarthy – all the other key roles are played by actors from the North East – a big plus which lends authenticity and credibility to the plot.

aNEk is a film that captures the angst of a mother who worries that her teenage son will be led astray by the rebels, whom he calls friends; it is a film which highlights the prejudice that other Indians have for achievers from the North East; a film that seeks to showcase efforts of a Central government leadership that is trying to bring dissenting voices to see sense without trampling upon their individual identities; it is a film which – unlike Sinha’s earlier efforts, is a balanced labour of love speaking for both sides while trying to avoid tipping over to the rebels cause.

Ordinary people want to live their lives peacefully, but caught in the crossfire between authoritiesand rebels they end up not only confused but also scared. Its imperative that the efforts at reaching out continue. Sinha raises these questions and even as answers are sought, accountability should be pinned. We are one, and that one fact must never be overshadowed. Not by the politics at play, nor by the rebels who use ordinary lives as pawns.

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