A DISTINCT VOICE
Konkana Sensharma’s directorial debut A Death in the Gunj starts on a deadly note: two men driving around with a corpse. But so assured is Sensharma in her storytelling that in the next two hours, for the most part, she has the audience engaged in a family sojourn that they know will end badly. Adapting a story written by her father, Mukul Sharma, Sensharma weaves a compelling drama where all the characters have shades of grey.
Mist and a sense of unease hang in the air in picturesque McCluskieganj of the 1970s. Twentysomething Shutu (Vikrant Massey), with his withdrawn demeanour and a secret up his sleeves, is the odd one out in the family, his melancholia further setting him apart. He is more at ease in the company of Tani, an eightyearold girl, than the adults who mock and lecture him. Dominant among them is the flamboyant Vikram (Ranvir Shorey), who, when he isn’t harassing Shutu, is cheating on his wife with a family friend, Mimi (Kalki Koechlin). Sensharma leaves moral judgements to the viewers while showing how all the members—Shutu’s cousin Nandu (Gulshan Devaiah), his wife Bonnie (Tillotama Shome) and the elders played by Tanuja and Om Puri—are complicit in the tragedy that unfolds.
The film works best when it presents a livedin portrait rather than a pictureperfect one of the family, an institution otherwise much sanctified on the big screen. The family’s concern for Shutu comes with good intent but also carries moral entitlement and lacks sensitivity. Mirth here comes only at the expense of the weak. The narrative could have been tighter—Sensharma loses focus in the middle, packing in more characters than she can handle (Tanuja, Puri and Jim Sarbh have limited parts)— but there is no denying that hers is a distinct and very welcome voice. The revelation here is Massey, whose alert eyes, crouched frame and constantlyontheedge persona leaves one rooting for the fallible hero.
SENSHARMA WEAVES A COMPELLING DRAMA IN WHICH EVERYONE HAS SHADES OF GREY