‘Andaman’ is a sympathetic picture of life in rural India during the lockdown imposed by the Covid-19 outbreak, led by superb performances, and astutely helmed by debutante filmmaker Smita Singh. The difficulties and sufferings of a man of integrity are depicted in this simple yet compelling quarantine drama.
The term ‘Andaman’ is a metaphor for the film’s remoteness and isolation, which takes place in the destitute and distant village of Bhulanpur in Madhya Pradesh.
The individual in question is Abhimanyu Pratap (Anand Raaj), an IAS aspirant who is given the “In-charge” of Bhulanpur’s quarantine centre while working as a Panchayat Secretary. The plot revolves around how he deals with the local community with the help of Jhallu (Jay Shankar Pandey), a labourer whom he affectionately refers to as ‘Pradhan’ (chief).
The film depicts Abhimanyu’s struggle while also gently exposing life in the region at the time, including people’s ignorance of and identification with the ‘WhatsApp University,’ as well as the caste and social system in place. To keep the audience involved, Singh uses a different tone to deliver the storey, less fable and more absurdist or satirical comedy.
The first half of the storey moves slowly, allowing you to take in everything that its scant environment has to offer. With the tragedies unfolding at the quarantine centre, the storey gathers up steam towards the halfway point. This will have you engrossed until the very end.
The film features a professional cast who are well-versed in the sarcastic social nuances, and the performers effortlessly fall into their roles, providing easy performances.
Anand Raaj, who plays Abhimanyu Pratap, is both sad and appealing in the primary role. He projects the image of a rigidly honest young public servant with his poker face.
He is made to understand his role in the hierarchy as Panchayat Secretary. The District Magistrate warns him to “work inside the system,” since “those who operate outside the system are thrown out of their positions.” When the tables are turned, you root for him. Ambrish Bobby as Jabra, Vishal Agiran as Halku, and Amrita Pal as Halku’s wife Jhumki are all as entertaining in stand-out roles, and their love triangle keeps the storey moving forward.
Sanjay Mishra and Rajesh Tailang appear in minor roles to support this independent film.
Overall, the film’s conception and execution are more valuable than its ideological discourse or social objective, despite its modest production values. It’s a magnificent masterpiece that appears to have emerged from the pandemic’s disarray.