A Death In The Gunj – A cinematic masterpiece

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Konkona Sen Sharma‘s directorial debut A Death In The Gunj is as understated, self assured and sure footed as the usual actor in her is, and remains extremely intriguing and engaging throughout, thanks to its sleepish yet smart pace.. This is such a finely chiseled piece of diamond that unless you know, its difficult to believe that its a debut film from a young director.. Everything seems like perfectly balanced here, right from the setup, to all the characters, to the intertwined moments they spend in a remote small town of late 70s; evoking nostalgia, drama, disgust, laughter, pain, solitude and a deep sense of loss at the same time as the story unfolds over a period of seven days.. Somewhere in this journey, one does not even realize while observing these very natural and yet complex layered characters from very close; on when you start feeling invested in their emotional highs and lows, and when you start feeling as quirky and random as they do as they go along…

And that is where this film becomes a cinematic marvel, it leaves you unsettled and waiting for the unexpected to happen from any or all of them as each chapter of this book unfolds, its that fine a piece of storytelling without being plot heavy at all! There is so much happening in the mind through the multiple layers of the characters without anything much happening… There is this richness of the sparse sprinkled all over the two hours of its running time, that masterfully excels in building this very authentic yet intoxicatingly tensed atmosphere not seen in an Indian movie for a very long time now…

The camera work by Sirsha Ray goes a long way in creating this outstandingly distinct mood through all its delicate shots, frames and colors, as is the background score by Sagar Desai that’s so soulfully haunting that it is still ringing in my ears.. the screenplay is one of the best I have seen in the recent times, and the production design along with the costumes perfectly paints the period the story is set in.. Konkona also scores a winner by casting a very strong ensemble of actors, where every single one of them tries to outshine the other.. The little Arya Sharma is a bundle of joy as is her Fluffy, Om Puri and Tanuja play the perfect veterans, Tillottama Shome and Gulshan Devaiah are adequately natural in their story, Ranvir Shorey is like a powerhouse of disgust brilliantly portrayed, and Kalki Koechlin is totally perfect in every frame she is in…

But its Vikrant Massey and his Shutu who will live with you for years through this movie with a completely honest and heartfelt performance.. his every little expression, to his brooding silence is a piece of cinematic brilliance that you will take away from this movie.. he makes you involved in his vulnerabilities, staying perfectly restrained at every shot and doing so much with so less…

Konkona’s style of direction seems heavily inspired by both Sen and Ray, and helps her in making a film as intelligent as she is.. She gifts us wholesome goodness right from the first shot to the last and the brilliant end ties back everything that the movie tries to explore along its way, leaving behind rich layers of introspection as a key take away.. The language of the film is very naturally English and never appears forced.. in fact it very easily blends into a hindi or a bangla as needed by the mood of the film at that moment.. I wish though, that Konkona had stayed away from the temptation of using her or her mom’s voice too, epecially Sen’s – the only thing that pricked me a tad odd from the rest…

2017 has been a rather dry year as far a good memorable films are concerned, but if it promises to bring in such understated masterpieces like ‘Mukti Bhavan’ or ‘A Death in the Gunj’ once in a while, then I am more than willing to wait for months together… Salutations to Konkona and her entire team for creating such a finely crafted cinematic experience.. I just can’t wait to see the next gem she will bring out from her bag of brilliance..

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