Producer-writer-director Anubhav Sinha’s latest addition to his trilogy, “Anek,” sets a milestone in Indian cinema. Especially since it is one of the few films that address the North-East issue on the big screen, this film is a layered narrative about a peace accord that needed to be signed in the Northeast. There are unresolved issues that were talked about throughout the story, and Sinha depicted them from a third person’s perspective, without giving any idea to the audience regarding which side he is on. Northeast issues have been avoided in Indian cinema since the release of “Tango Charlie,” and they have also been neglected in the political regime. “Anek” is a socio-political drama that deals with the northeast situation, and people needed to know about what was happening there.
Movies like “Anek” need more attention than “The Kashmir Files,” as they talk about the problem without favoring any particular group. It is always the common people who need peace the most, not the politicians who demand it or fill their vote banks in the name of achieving peace for the people. The story’s protagonist once said, “Are we going after guns and ignoring the shoulders?” Every soldier has a different story. Why did they pick up the gun? Why are they even fighting? Are they brainwashed, or were they promised peace? Why is a peace accord more important to the government than actual peace? This movie answers these questions, and for some reason, the answers stand tall against the political situation of the Northeast.
What Happens In “Anek”?
The story revolves around Aman (Ayushman Khurrana), an undercover cop searching for the largest insurgent group in the Northeast that is trying to create violence. He has a deadline as he needs to find the person behind all the mess before India signs a peace accord with Tiger Sangha (Loitangbam Dorendra). The goal was to create a fictional rival group and put pressure on the ruling party so that they would agree to sign the peace accord. Aman took care of that. In the meantime, he learned that the fictional group they created, Johnson, is now being used by another group of people who are helping the locals fight for themselves. This new Johnson group has built schools, nurtured natural resources, and rehabilitated the youth to eliminate their drug problems. They were also stating that if they could resolve their own problems with what they have in their homeland, they wouldn’t have to depend on Delhi for jobs. After interacting closely with them, Aman felt that the government should also listen to what they had to say.
When Aman talked with his senior, Abrar Butt (Manoj Pahwa), he realized that the government had no interest in hearing the people’s voices. They are eager to sign the peace accord with the one who kills people for protesting and forces the youth to take drugs. Abrar Butt tried to warn Aman that people’s voices can be heard once every five years, but not always. He also suggested that if the government was supposed to listen to people’s voices, it would be either everywhere or nowhere in particular. On the other hand, Abrar Butt, with his boss (Kumud Mishra), is almost on the verge of signing the peace accord with Tiger Sangha, who created the most bloodshed and chaos in the Northeast.
In parallel to this political story, there is a girl named Aido (Andrea Kevichusa) who dreams of representing India in boxing, but since she belongs to the Northeast, her chances become bleak. She challenges the boxer, Gopa, who was selected to represent India. Aido is in love with Aman without knowing his real identity. Aman came to know that Aido’s father runs the schools of Johnson and other secret projects. Aman somehow fell in love with Aido, too, in the process of investigating Aido’s father. Later, when the people of Tiger Sangha were searching for Aido’s father, he decided to leave and asked Aido to come along. Aido had her fight, so she stayed put and defeated Gopa to represent India. She also wins gold while representing her country.
On the other hand, Aman finds out where Aido’s father is headed, and he, along with Major Veer, conducts a covert operation to bring him down. While Major Veer had the instructions for killing Aido’s father, Aman rebelled against the idea and said that the man needed to be captured alive so his voice could be heard. Ultimately, Wangnao, Aido’s father, is captured and brought to justice. He helped create a strong case against Tiger Shanga that showed his involvement in almost every criminal activity in the Northeast. Thus, the peace accord was not signed and kept on pause.
Why Was The Peace Accord More Critical Than The Actual Peace?
There was a time when a discussion was in place between Aman and Anjaiyaah (J.D. Chakravarthy), a police officer from Telangana. They talked about peace and how often people confuse it with control. When everything is under control, it feels like peace exists. If we observe things as they are, peace is never achieved. Violence is conducted for the sake of peace, but not for real peace. Peace is a myth for the people and a subjective hypothesis for those in power. Anjaiyaah also talked about how peace for one is chaos for another. Just like Lord Buddha left everything behind for peace, even though he achieved it. But for Yashodhara, it was not peace but chaos as there was no one to look after her and her child. So, to project peace or control, first, you need chaos. When you try to reduce clutter, it requires more violence. Thus, power is established. Signing a peace accord means having control over the state under the constitution. So, from the government’s point of view, it is pretty obvious why they hurried to sign the accord by destroying the intention of true peace.
Who Was Johnson?
Tiger Shanga was a fictional identity created by Aman and his agency to put pressure on Tiger Shanga and force him to sign the peace accord. The plan was simple. A fictional insurgent group will be controlled unanimously by the Indian government until the peace accord is signed. But unfortunately, another group took the name and started working independently. Leaders like Doko and Wangnao never mentioned who the actual Johnson was. When Aman, for the first time, interacted with Wangnao, he knew that Johnson was not a man but an idea. It was an idea to fight against Tiger Shanga and the supremacy of the Indian government. They have been tortured from the outside and within. They disapprove of being called Indian, as the hate starts growing from within with each passing day. Some questions were raised, such as: if they were considered part of India, then why were there soldiers in every corner looking straight at them, presuming them to be terrorists? Why were there soldiers in the first place? When Aman questioned Wangnao about the drugs and other crimes, he said it was always Tiger Shanga with whom the Indian government was eager to establish peace.
What Is The Northeast Issue?
Since the 1950s, Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, and Tripura have witnessed insurgencies and conflicts. Now, what is an insurgency? It is an armed rebellion of tribes or groups against the government or the authorities for not considering them belligerents. Although these insurgencies have decreased since the 1990s, only Manipur still has a significant share of the problem. Here, some groups seek a separate state, and others ask for political autonomy. The problem is with the rest of the extreme groups demanding complete independence. It is impossible to point out the exact reasons behind the northeast issues.
But, some geo-political issues need to be resolved as soon as possible, such as the tension between tribal people, natives of these states, and migrant people from other parts of India, who face discrimination on a daily basis. Also, the development plans which are on hold for the lack of funds must be restored with immediate effect. The AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Power Act) has been creating problems since the early days of deployment. The external support from China and Myanmar causes more pain as these support groups help create insurgencies. So, there may be hundreds of problems, but the most significant is that no one wants peace. War is a good business and is easier to control than peace.
According to recent insurgency reports, the most difficult challenge for the Northeast to overcome is extortion carried out by various insurgent groups. Extortions have been one of the various happenings here in the Northeast to feed the militants with the required funds. The CPI (Maoist) maintains contact with these insurgent groups, which explains the origin of their arsenal. The reports show that the arms were given by the United Liberation Force of Asom (ULFA) to the CPI (Maoist) in West Bengal. One of the many issues is also the Chicken Neck Issue.
What Is The Chicken Neck Issue?
The stretch of land around Siliguri city is considered the “Chicken’s neck.” It is a span of 20–22 kilometers. This geo-political portion connects the seven states of northeast India to the rest of India. Siliguri is the most important city in this region because it shares borders with Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sikkim, Darjeeling, and Northeast India. Now, the problem occurs when the convoys of the Indian army block this route. Chicken Neck is the narrowest region of this portion, so if the road is blocked, the export is also stopped. Farmers in the Northeast worked for almost a year to grow the vegetables, and now those are wasted when army convoys interfere. This span of 22 km is also a geo-economic problem for the Northeast, where India is somehow responsible.
About The Director’s Approach And The Characters
Anubhav Sinha dealt with his part of the trilogy pretty well. The religious unrest represented in “Mulk,” then the caste discrimination in “Article 15,” and now the regional identity in “Anek.” He developed an understanding through his films where the audience could understand the people’s voices instead of the popular opinion created by those in power. What happens on ground zero needs to be understood by standing there, not by reading the detailed description. “Anek” has covered most of the northeast issues that have been neglected for so long. Even he brought a character like Abrar Butt, a Kashmiri, sharing the thoughts of the peace accord. We all know about the vicious Islamophobia raging around India today. Putting someone from Kashmir in charge of peace in the troubled Northeast of India is pretty mature and ironic at the same time. There was one time when Tiger Shanga even pointed out the fact regarding Article 370 in Kashmir, which made Abrar Butt silent.
Although, there are some parts of the film that were more like reading out an editor’s piece. As in the previous exchange between Aman and Abrar Butt, because this film gives us a docu-like narrative, the dialogues seem somewhat valid. Ayushman Khurrana bought himself out of his regular identity and delivered a captivating performance. On the other hand, the script didn’t give him much to work with in the scenes where he shared his screen with Aido, and hence the romantic chemistry between them was missing in the overall film. Their chemistry never really sparkled, and they never made any significant gestures. Manoj Pahwa was very sharp, if not brilliant, in his approach to the Abrar Butt character. The film is mainly written in the Hindi language, but Anubhav maintained a balance in the casting. He gathered an excellent cast from the Northeast, who performed pretty well. The film is a ride in the second half; it mostly felt like “Madras Cafe.” The first half of the film is primarily political. No characters essentially made any impact on the audience, except for the issues that were brought in.
“Anek” is a long-overdue movie. Yes, it is not a perfect movie, and maybe people won’t even remember much about it, but it was a movie that needed to happen. It doesn’t bring anything new, but people need to watch it to understand the problem at least. “Anek” is streaming on Netflix.