The last time, i saw an Anubhav Sinha film in a theatre was in Burjuman in Dubai, which was the clutter breaking, Article 15 which shed light on the internal borders which are invisible yet real in the form of casteism. In Anek, the film maker is trying for making the other ‘othered’ geography the anthropological preserve of Sanjib Baruah among others, of the Northeast as the Northeast in the dominant mainstream imagination of the North Indian ‘Bhaiya’ gaze. I often watch Bollywood phillums in the diaspora as a Gulf Kid who watched Hindi movies as a form of belonging to the city of my birth, Bombay.
The frame of the movie is clear that the post-colonial Indian State is interested in keeping the NE as an object of control through the buffering violence which no one is really interested in bringing real peace rather than the performativity of the peace accord. The machinations of a brown proto imperial state are in full glory with police intelligence official Aman (cryptically called Peace) played by Ayushman is out to charm, bend, negotiate the ‘peace’ on behalf of the powers of the day. The fractional politics of Tiger Sanga, modelled on a Naga insurgent leader and Johnson, the emerging fraction is delicious as a game of chess soaked in blood. The cinematography with drone shots and eye level montages, makes for intimacy with the viewer.
The film uses the power of dialogue to the full extent with the dialogue credits going to Mr. Sinha. The movie places the NE on par with the K issue, as if in the hierarchy of armed conflicts, the NE is a simmering flame rather than a sharp BBQ fire, prone to an accident. The characters in the film are apt with the NE boxer character of Alindo, sharing screen space with bigger names with ease.
The movie is quietly subversive with pot shots on Article 370, surgical strikes, and the present regime, which in the given scheme of affairs is commendable. There are parallel tracks to the movie including the human cost of conflict and the larger macro contests which give the out main aspect of the film, as who are wars fought for in the name of peace, as wars are easier fought for control rather than lasting peace. The politics of the Northeast as a sporting gold incubator of the country, punching above its weight class to speak to the nation as an equal spoke to me.
The stereotypes sprinkled across the film including taking snipes at a Bihari police officer is apt as the gaze is turned on the hidden linguistic hierarchies within Hindi, Hindu and Hindustan. The momo and the chili chicken references are jarring at best, but it speaks to a north Indian audience. The film also quotes Gandhi from a revolutionary lens and is not meant for the Salman Bhai viewing crowd albeit Ayushman borrowing nasal mannerisms from the Bandra boy.
The film offers rich raw material on a potential full-length paper on pop geopolitics and other South Asian Studies Scholars.