22nd November 2020

Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa Review: Dull Lifeless Pointless

Anwar  Ka Ajab Kissa(ErosNow)

Starring Nawazzudin Siddiqui, Pankaj Tripathy, Niharika Singh

Written  & Directed by Buddhadeb Dasgupta

Rating: * ½ 

 Pankaj Tripathy makes an  appearance  after 50 minutes of a tortuous this plodding surreal yatra, and that too for 5 minutes and  then he’s gone.

Lucky sod!  The  best  thing to do  in a  film as heavyhanded and  selfconsciously cerebral as this  is to stay away  from it as much as  possible. This is  not possible for  Nawazuddin Siddiqui who as  a cheesy  detective in the low-budget areas  of Kolkata occupies nearly frame. My unalloyed admiration for the actor to have taken this selfindulgent  journey  with  one of Bengal’s  prominent avant garde  directors from the  1980s  and 90s  who has clearly lost the plot.When Buddadeb  Dasgupta made the excellent Phera  and Bagh Bahadur it was  a  different  world, with a quaint  intimate world perspective which , if applied to today’s  reality, seems  outdated .

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I could almost smell the  mothballs  in Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa(now going by  the strange  title Sniffer). The  values concerns and motivations of  the storytelling seem  hopelessly outdated   and even bigoted. As Mohammed Anwar goes through a series of  encounters  during his investigative work, we are  supposed  to be shocked, amused and  intrigued. None of these happen. Shot  perpetually in a pale  dying light(what was  cinematographer Diego Romeo thinking?)   the cerebral masturbation  of  Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa is  impossible to bear even  if  you are adiehard  fan  of Nawazuddin and  director Dasgupta.

The  director has clearly seen better days. He is completely  out of  sorts here, as his low-life detective-hero Anwar meets  characters  as varied as  the  surviving  lover of a closeted gay man with a wife and daughter who has  committed suicide.It is now up to  Anwar to tell the family  the truth:  a moment   of dramatic  heft , here reduced to a  whimper by  the  director’s failing ability to infuse his characters  and plot with  vigour.

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The limp listless screenplay  crams in  varied characters,   like an old Muslim man whose child is sold  into the  flesh trade(the episode is as devoid of  emotions as a jar of  jelly  left out in the  sun) and  the  old lady who “travels” to different  places  , all in her mind. And that’s where the  character  and the film should have remained. Incidentally octogenarian  Farrukh Jafar has become typecast as  the feisty old woman.  Not much else  she  can play,  I guess. Her joie de vivre is  delightful though .

The excruciatingly lifeless narration  elicits no joy, no sorrow,  just indifference  from the  audience. There are lengthy stretches  of dialogue between Anwar and  his dog Lalu where we  get to know   of his  background, his  dreams  , dejections  and  a failed love affair with a pretty school teacher  Ayesha .In  the  final episode Ayesha  shows up in  the wilderness where Anwar roams in search of his roots, and right there  in  the middle of nowhere strips her clothes off   after  considerately asking Anwar, “Tum kya dekna chahte  ho.”

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Even before  he  could reply!  As  Ayesha  played by  Niharika Singh, she must have known without  being told.I don’t mean to be rude  to a festival-feted  filmmaker,  but I burst  out laughing at the sheer self-importance  of this eccentric  film that is  neither  fish nor fowl. Just sad.

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