What is the story about?
As Anwar, a private investigator, keeps eking out a living by collecting proof for clients, he keeps slipping into the past. Is his world the stuff of fantasy or reality?
Anyone familiar with the work of Bengali auteur Buddhadeb Dasgupta know that his films are never driven by the storylines, but by the characters. In Dasgupta's cinema, the internal workings of the character's minds fascinate him the most. This aspect is on glorious display in Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa. This film was shot in 2013, and was lying in the cans since then. Dasgupta’s films are rarely meant for mainstream audiences, and therefore, perhaps, it is fitting that this film has suddenly risen back to life in the age of OTT platforms. Even though it has been made years ago, there's a certain timeless aesthetic to its themes of isolation and introspection, which are again hallmarks of a Dasgupta film.
All the cases that Anwar investigates call upon his various talents of detection, but, unlike his seniors who are driven by commercial needs, Anwar is more concerned about the human element in his cases. There is no story as such in the film, but once you start to look at the world through Anwar's eyes, you realize that you are firmly ensconced within his mind, where he constantly flits between his present and his past. And this effect becomes even more pronounced in the stunning last half-hour, where Dasgupta takes the audience into a space that seems to blend fantasy and reality. This is a beautiful, lyrical film, and thanks to Eros Now, will find its audience over time.
Dasgupta has repeatedly said that he casts actors in his films based on certain physical features and traits, and therefore it is no surprise that he finds his confused, lost-in-his-own-world Anwar in the sublime Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Siddiqui's haunting eyes and quirky mannerisms brilliantly bring out the various facets of Anwar's existence. Niharika Singh does not have many dialogues as a former lover who lives on in Anwar's imagination, but she conveys the vulnerability and love for him with her expressive eyes. The supporting cast is primarily made up of terrific character actors from Bengali cinema, such as Barun Chanda, Ananya Chatterjee, Amrita Chattopadhyay, Sohini Paul, Masood Akhtar, Jaya Seal Ghosh and others, but they play their brief roles well. And Pankaj Tripathi, true to form, knocks it out of the park with that one scene as Amol Shukla, where he contemplates his own existence while sitting with Anwar near a highway.
Music & Other Departments
Dasgupta's daughter Alokananda Dasgupta, who also composed the fabulous scores for Sacred Games and Breathe, is suitably restrained here with a minimalist score. Cinematographer Diego Romero and editor Amitava Dasgupta capture the various moods of Anwar, as well as the unhurried pace of life in Kolkata.
The film is full of surrealistic imagery that catches your attention and the last half-hour, especially, is a lyrical collection of vignettes.
This film, in line with Dasgupta's earlier work, falls firmly within the genre of “arthouse cinema”. Viewers looking for more mainstream fare are likely to be disappointed.
Did I enjoy it?
Do I recommend it?
Of course. Keep some time aside for absorbing the layers of Anwar's journey, and this film will reward you in surprising ways.