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Anaan film review: A bold but muddled narrative on gender identity

Release Date: 22 Sep 2017 / Rated: U/A / 02hr 09min

Cinestaan Rating

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Suparna Thombare

Director Rajesh Kushte attempts to tackle a taboo subject boldly and sensitively but not efficiently.

While most filmmakers are still scared to deal with subjects related to the LGBTQ community, Rajesh Kushte attempts to tell the rare story of a hermaphrodite. And his effort is worthy of a mention.

A tribal man attempts to kill a mother and a baby in a forest because he considers the newborn ‘paap’ (sin or curse), but by a stroke of luck, the baby gets saved and adopted by a singer (Shilpa Tulaskar) though the mother gets killed.

Twenty-one years later, Kris (Sukhada Khandekar) arrives in India from Germany to stage a play to complete her thesis project and meets three boys, including Yuvraj (Omkar Shinde), who set out to help her stage a dance-based theatre production on Lord Shiva.

Neel (Prarthana Behere), the surviving baby who has now grown up, has become a dancer and lives with her adopted mother. As she struggles to come to terms with her attraction for women, her uncle curses her, prompting her to leave home. Thus begins her journey to learn what it means to be a hermaphrodite and accept herself as she is. While Yuvraj falls in love with Neel, Neel develops a special bond with Kris.

Screenplay writers Raju-Mukesh try to present the perspective of too many characters, making you wonder where this whole thing is going for the longest time. Focusing on Neel's point of view would have done the script a lot of good. Her inner struggles should have been explored more. The other characters then could have been explored as part of her journey. 

With basic flaws in the storytelling itself, it is hard to achieve excellence with the direction. This kind of subject needs to be treated carefully and sensitively, and director Kushte manages to do so to a large extent. The make-out scenes between the female characters are shot tastefully. The empathy of some of the supporting characters towards Neel after learning of her sexual identity is a positive kind of portrayal. 

Neel is unable to come to terms with her sexuality, not understanding whether she is attracted to men or women or both. She considers herself a curse as she is being pursued by a man who wants to kill her. Kris helps her understand that she is complete in herself and that she is not alone, there are many others out there like her. 

The performances are average, but kudos to Behere for attempting a complex character like this one.

The fact that the protagonist is a hermaphrodite is revealed far too late into the narrative (though you guess it anyway). Yuvraj’s entire story, explored in detail, takes a lot of attention away from the main point of the film. The multiple attempts on her life are way too convenient and not convincing. Another drawback is that there is no larger social or political context to the events.

The muddled narrative does not allow you to completely invest in the characters. The reference to Ardhanarishvara, to saying that even a Hindu god like Shiva has been depicted as half male and half female, is interesting, but the film is stretched to a point where the final scene becomes much less effective than it could have been.

Less melodrama and more focus on telling the simple story of a person dealing with a sexual identity crisis would have been a lot more effective. In trying to also be a thriller, the core of the story loses its sheen.