Celebrated Bengali director’s Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s Hindi-language production Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa was completed in 2013 but has been unreleased – until now. The whimsical tale centring on a detective has finally found an outlet on the streaming platform Eros Now. The 126-minute movie’s vintage shows up in several sequences. For instance, as Anwar follows his targets around, he uses a small but conspicuous digital camera.
Nostalgia emerges in other ways in the seriocomic narrative. The film plays out in a labyrinthine quarter of Kolkata and in the mind of its quirky hero. Anwar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) has a tendency to get a bit too involved with his cases. He gets moralistic when he catches a client’s son fooling around but is empathetic when another mark turns out be a deeply closeted man. He yearns for his lost love and has deep one-sided conversations with his aging Labrador Lalu (played by the good boy Robin).
Anwar isn’t exactly discreet – he walks around in an ostentatious hat and coat – but then he isn’t exactly a classic sleuth either. His investigations are a way of retracing his steps back to his childhood and making sense of his memories, the nature of relationships and human foibles. Among the people Anwar meets is a man who has abandoned his family and a granny who likes to travel. Each of the encounters, situated somewhere between reality and the realm of dreams, sets Anwar further along on a journey into the self.
Filled with Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s trademark travelling and tracking shots, evocative locations and philosophical characters, the movie is sometimes lyrical, sometimes stagey, and at all times anchored by its leading man.
Although the raft of cameos include turns by Niharika Singh, Pankaj Tripathi and Barun Chanda, Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa is a showcase for Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s ability to portray humanity in all its confounding complexity. He is nearly in every frame, in keeping with the movie’s solipsistic nature, and is always solid even in the creakiest of moments.