A Death in the Gunj: Is Konkona Sensharma perhaps the new Satyajit Ray? 

We are all very well versed with Konkona Sensharma’s ability as an actor. With movies like Mr and Mrs Iyer, Omkara, Wake Up Sid and more to her credit, she’s proved to the world that she is an excellent actor, with perfection being her forte. A Death in the Gunj is her first attempt at direction and that too is an example of excellence of art.

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There always are certain movies that you watch and think:

  1. It couldn’t have gotten better.
  2. I haven’t seen such a beautiful work of art in long.
  3. I am not even going to watch a film as good in a long time.

That is A Death in the Gunj for you.

The film traces the story of Shutu (Vikrant Massey), who is the unsaid protagonist – a 23 year old student who is considered to be a child by everyone else. Shutu, along with his family – Nandu (Gulshan Devaiah), his wife Bonnie (Tillotama Shome), their daughter Tani (Arya Sharma) and Mimi (Kalki Koechlin) have come to visit Aunty (Tanuja Mukherjee) and Uncle (Om Puri) in McCluskieganj for New Years. There also are Brian (Jim Sarbh) and Vikram (Ranvir Shorey) who are Nandu’s friends. The film is about this dysfunctional family and how they go about the daily chores of life, sexual tension between some of them and their approach towards gender differences.

A Death in the Gunj is the retelling of real life incidents from Sensharma’s life. She traces the stories her parents used to tell her and carves a screenplay that is far away from artifice. It’s so good! The dialogues are short and crisp. While some of them are written in Hindi, most of them are in English, and that is what creates more of an impact.

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With an ensemble cast of nine actors which includes a kid, A Death in the Gunj could have just fallen apart. But all the actors play their parts with equal grace and everything is in place. Gulshan Devaiah, Jim Sarbh, Om Puri, Tanuja Mukherjee and Tillotama Shome are all fine actors. No one has acted too much or too little. Kalki Koechlin and Ranvir Shorey are way beyond praise. Kalki’s portrayal of a broken Mimi, deprived of love is outstanding. The way she can seduce a man or even smoke a cigarette, are outstanding. The anger in Shorey’s eyes, the sense of superiority in his tone and the robustness of his body are all marvellous. But, among the entire cast, Vikrant Massey and Arya Sharma are standouts. I remember watching Massey in Lootera and falling in love with his craft. He is perfect as Shutu – there couldn’t have been a better alternative. As far as Arya is concerned, she has a long way to go.

Again, what is best in this thriller is the writing. It was like reading an Agatha Christie book. You will never know who is to actually die. Is it Tani, is it Shutu, or Vikram, or Mimi or someone else? Watch the movie to find out. Also, it is very difficult to not feel a part of this family. Sagar Desai’s background score is haunting. It sets the mood right as it compliments the writing in a very beautiful fashion.

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Update: When I saw A Death In The Gunj for the second time, I noticed things I couldn’t have noticed had I not watched it again. This film not only belongs to Vikrant Massey and Aarya Sharma but equally to Kalki Koechlin too. She brings to the table different nuances of Mimi’s life, whether it’s the sexual tension inside of her, or a part of her, that maybe secretly loves. And as I pointed earlier, the biggest jewel in this crown is Sensharma’s writing. And we have seen such writing – with a smooth flair, a place for comedy, for tragedy even – earlier. But almost only once before this. Sensharma’s writing is, in fact, very close to Satyajit Ray’s. She’s not only a gifted writer, but over the years, she has definitely mastered her art, maybe through acting!
All in all, I will definitely recommend A Death in the Gunj to everyone whenever it releases, or if you can, catch a special screening like I did.

If I had to rate the film, 1200 seats hain Liberty Cinema mein. And it was house full. Soch lo what you might be missing…

Watch the trailer here:

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