Anu, director / co-writer Sudeshna Sen’s debut feature-length film, is a sweet coming-of-age tale about growing in the face of grief. Anu (Diya Modi) is a preteen daughter of Indian immigrants in the United States. Her father, Rijoy (Pratik P Shah), and mother, Preeti (Tanvee Kale), have made a good life for themselves and their daughter. All three value the presence of Bapu (Abhijeet Rane), Rijoy’s father, who lives with them in his old age and has forged a close bond with Anu. The two share several hobbies, the most profound of which is bird watching, which they practice in the woods near their home. Although Anu finds the waiting aspect somewhat tiresome, Bapu is always ready to give her a pearl of wisdom pulled from the cultural mythology he heard while growing up. Usually, he’s right, and the time they spend patiently waiting pays off with a new bird sighting.
One day while in the woods, however, Bapu collapses. Although Anu rushes to get help, it’s too late, and he passes away. In a moment, her life changes.
Although gone, Anu starts to see apparitions of Bapu that only she can seem to sense. She starts to think about the tales he told and believes perhaps he’ll be the reincarnation of Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism. Along the way, Anu bumps up against both her parents’ own grief journeys and the realities of their lives as immigrants who do not have the same views on their cultural heritage.
Obviously, Bapu is not the reincarnation of Siddhartha, but the film doesn’t treat Anu’s newfound belief (and mission to see it turn into reality) as a fool’s errand. It’s part of her grieving process, and through her quest, she learns invaluable lessons about herself and those around her.
Anu is, above all else, empathetic to the amount of information its lead character is processing. She’s only 12 years old, after all, and facing her first brush with the death of a loved one mixed with the sudden knowledge of a heritage to which she had paid very little attention. Along the way, she’s aided by her friends, Unger (Hudson Bruener) and Izzy (Eden Campbell), both depicted as supportive and informative friends. It’s a feel-good film about a young woman getting all the proper support she needs while exploring the world around her from a newly vulnerable perspective. Very good.