Review: Expect the Unexpected from ‘A Death In The Gunj’
It’s the “death” in the gunj bit that keeps us at the edge of our seats, writes Stutee Ghosh.
Lots of things change with time but there are some things that don’t. A Death In The Gunj focuses on those that don’t change but become a testimony to time and its ravages. Family secrets and folklore are a lot like that. The film draws upon a story written by Konkona Sensharma’s father Mukul Sharma and a sort of fictionalised retelling of real life events.
As all family members and close friends join in to meet and party, what looks like an uneventful family holiday soon takes an unexpected turn. Every family is unique and yet somewhere they manage to clone each other.
Relationship dynamics are tricky, where as much is conveyed through silences and stolen glances as with words. It’s difficult to not consider oneself a part of this juggling Bakshi family.
A huge house with an avuncular charm, circa 1979, of sprawling lawns and inviting greens. Of the faded blue of an intimately written inland letter. The fragrance of mutton curry, the temptation of a homemade caramel custard. Of family picnics and late night sojourns around a planchette. Of togetherness and alienation.
It’s this world of a sepia-toned familiarity that debutant director Konkona Sensharma’s vision, and cinematographer Sirsha Ray’s focus does a brilliant job of conjuring up. It’s limited to not just long sideburns and boot cut pants, but soaking up the Anglo-Indian vibe of this quaint little town of McCluskieganj.
Also beautiful is the fluidity of language. As characters effortlessly switch from English to a smattering of Bangla and Hindi, it’s easygoing and natural.
In so many ways it’s exactly how we would think and talk, which is also probably why it’s difficult to remain isolated from the characters and their predicaments. We develop our own insights and feelings for all the family members. Our loyalties shift as we meet them.
A quiet, extra sensitive cousin Shutu (Vikrant Massey) that everyone seems to pick on, an aggressive alpha male presence of Vikram (Ranvir Shorey), an overbearing friend. Kalki Koechlin as Mimi the cigarette smoking guest one isn’t very sure how to place. A family patriarch (Om Puri) more interested in guns and reliving his glorious hunting days.
Konkona Sensharma tells an invigorating tale and has the most brilliantly talented ensemble cast to anchor it.
Om Puri, Tanuja , Tillotama Shome, Ranvir Shorey, Vikrant Massey, Kalki Koechlin, Gulshan Devaiah, Jim Sarbh and the young Arya Sharma fill the canvas with their brilliance. Vikrant Massey shines as he gives the reticent Shutu a credible potency – not an easy feat considering each one of the actors are a powerhouse in themselves.
It’s the “death” in the gunj bit that keeps us at the edge of our seats, as we follow closely not just the characters and their motivations but also the impending end. ‘Who could it be?’ is a thought that scarcely leaves us. The music of Sagar Desai is so rooted and earthy that we live the tension quite literally.
A Death In The Gunj is a delectable slice of film, one that is flavoured with the most delicate of emotions. This one is special. 4 QUINTS OUT OF 5.
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