STORY: Nandu and Bonnie go back home to McCluskiegunj for a week. The house soon fills up with old friends and new equations as the reclusive Shutu watches on in despair.
REVIEW: Konkona Sensharma’s debut feature is nothing short of a haunting folk-tale told around a crackling bonfire on a cold night. Perhaps Sensharma has heard it over a bonfire herself, given that the film is inspired by true events experienced by her family.
In this fictitious version, Nandu (Devaiah), Bonnie (Shome), Shutu (Massey), Mimi (Koechlin) and Tani (Sharma) arrive at the Batras’ (Om Puri and Tanuja) home in McCluskiegunj. We soon meet Vikram (Shorey) and Brian (Sarbh), Nandu’s friends with a questionable conscience and a knack for tomfoolery.
Shutu, the youngest of all adults, becomes the butt of all jokes. But he endures silently. Adulterous relationships, hurtful pranks and a cutthroat game of kabaddi all add to the rage building within him.
Sensharma uses her actors beautifully; Massey is superb in a scene where he’s quietly putting on his late father’s sweater, and his scenes with Arya Sharma form the movie’s emotional core; Koechlin’s Mimi always wants more than she can have and her dissatisfaction is evident; Shome is sweet and motherly, until she lashes out at her husband and you wonder where the anger is coming from; Shorey has been made to look like a Hindi movie villain and is contemptible.
The use of folksongs in the background score is a welcome change. A sex scene uses a chair very cleverly and this euphemism, like other small details, will win you over.
But if you step back and look at the whole picture, you realize that the payoff is too predictable. The kind of tension built through the movie would have justified any crazy eventuality, but the one that serves as the film’s climax is too bland. Apart from that, there’s no clear reason for setting the movie in the 70s and the dialect is far too modern, but the storytelling hides these flaws.
A Death In The Gunj will make you drop your jaw several times, except for the one time you'd really want it to: the climax.