Rating: 3/5 Stars (Three stars)
Star Cast: Vikrant Massey, Tilottama Shome, (Late) Om Puri, Tanuja, Gulshan Devaiah, Kalki Koechlin, Jim Sarbh, Ranvir Shorey, Arya Sharma
Director: Konkona Sen Sharma
What’s Good: Nice Storytelling, cinematography, music
What’s Bad: Abrupt ending, slow pace
Loo Break: Yes
Watch or Not?: Yes if you enjoy thrillers
The film is based on a short story by Konkona Sen Sharma’s father Mukul Sharma, which was inspired by true events.
A Bengali family visits McCluskiegunj (formerly in Bihar and now in Jharkhand) to celebrate the New Year of 1979. Nandu’s (Gulshan Devaiah) parents O.P Bakshi (Om Puri) and Anupama (Tanuja) stay there in a beautiful bungalow. Nandu visits there with his wife Bonnie (Tilottama Shome), daughter Tani (Arya Sharma) and cousin brother Shutu (Vikrant Massey). They are joined by Nandu’s friends Vikram (Ranvir Shorey), Brian (Jim Sarbh) and Bonnie’s Anglo-Indian friend Mimi (Kalki koechlin).
What begins as a fun and leisurely family vacation soon starts uncovering its layers. Vikram, who has recently got married, is in an extra marital affair with Mimi. Mimi is unable to come to terms with the fact that Vikram did not marry her. Vikram is also the bully who leaves out no single opportunity to harass Shutu, Nandu’s extra sensitive 23-year-old cousin, who has always been a topper in exams and has recently lost his father. Nobody takes Shutu seriously and his only friend and companion in the group is Nandu and Bonnie’s daughter Tani, who loves him a lot. Nandu doesn’t seem to be very kind towards Shutu either. Shutu never protests. He seems to be extra quiet and reserved. His silence is in fact disturbing. He cries alone at night.
Mimi, who is frustrated due to Vikram’s wedding, needs a means to gratify her sexual desires and uses Shutu to do that, who feels she is in love with him. But Shutu soon learns the reality, when Mimi shows no interest in him anymore and this shatters him altogether.
On the final day of the vacation, a sudden death happens in the family.
A Death In The Gunj Review: Script Analysis
What I absolutely loved was the ease with which the characters switch from English to Hindi and occasionally Bengali.
The characters, which are inspired by real life characters, actually look real. There is a Vikram and a Shutu in every family and nobody can deny that.
The script is nicely written and makes the film gripping. The story highlights the complexities of human relationships, the human psyche and points a finger at the cruel wolf which resides in each of us. It’s human tendency to torture the weak and no matter how refined or how gentle we pretend to be, the cruel wolf sometimes overpowers us and that is exactly what the film shows. A scene in which Shutu and Tani burn an insect on a leaf with a magnifying glass under the sun perfectly works as a metaphor.
A Death In The Gunj Review: Star Performance
Vikrant Massey steals the show with his absolutely brilliant performance in the film. This is the actor I will remember whenever I think about the film, even after many years. In fact, all the actors keep it very natural, and it appears as if they are conversing between themselves and not really delivering dialogues in a film.
Tilottama Shome fits perfectly as Bonnie. She is very talented and natural.
Ranvir Shorey is one person I hated after watching the film and that is exactly where he scores 100 out of 100 as an actor! He nails it in the negative role.
Tanuja and Om Puri appear as if they are really an elderly couple residing in that bungalow. Their chemistry is lovely. The death of this actor is a big loss for the world of cinema.
Child actor Arya Sharma is extremely adorable.
A Death In The Gunj Review: Direction, Music
You cannot ignore the subtle influence of Aparna Sen’s filmmaking style in her daughter Konkona’s film. Konkona excels as a debutante director.
She beautifully recreates the period not just with costumes and makeup but with props like Dulaler talmichhri, the coins and notes, landline phones, pale blue inland letters, the interiors of the bungalow including its furniture.
Just when I started thinking that the film is getting monotonous towards the beginning of the second half, it suddenly startled me! However, the film could have been shorter and tighter.
As soon as the film with the title A Death In The Gunj begins, you start thinking, who might be the one? However, as the film unfolds, with the turn of events the ending becomes predictable. Also, the film ends abruptly and leaves you with a lot of questions.
Sirsha Ray does a good job with the camera.
I loved the way the makers of this film experimented with the music! From tribal song Toot Gachhe Bhoot Nachey to Auld Lang Syne to Dhitang Dhitang Bole you get every kind of flavour in one platter.
A Death In The Gunj Review: The Last Word
A Death In The Gunj is a beautiful slice of a life cum thriller film, with a lesson. However, the film will not appeal to every kind of audience. If you are a true admirer of good cinema, you’ll love it for sure. I give it 3 stars.
A Death In The Gunj Trailer
A Death In The Gunj releases on 2nd June, 2017.
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