TIFF 2016 Review: “A Death in the Gunj” (2016) ★★★★


A family gathering event usually carries only a good cause and is never meant to end on a sad note. An event that occurs in India’s McCluskiegunj, back in 1979, unfortunately brings nothing good for one particular person, whose death certainly shakes not only the victim’s family but the Gunj as well.

Set in 1978 close to the end of the year, the family comes together to celebrate the new year. It seems nothing worries anyone, as drinks, games and an eventful night is what had occupied everyone’s mind. Shutu is a 22-year-old man who dreams to have his own space in the world. Hoping one day to graduate from university, the young man studies restlessly. However, things will change quickly during the family vacation where everyone’s fate is about to be decided…

The film begins with the week prior to the event when the tragedy occurs. Maniya, Nandu and Shutu carry the body in the trunk of their car. As they decide how to fit it into the car, the viewer does not really know the face of the character who dies. Right after the opening scene, we are taken one week back from where you will have be attentive enough to see what is it that happens a week after that makes one soul to die.

Day one and two brings nothing much. As the story unfolds, the writer and director Konkona Sensharma cleverly builds the characters, allowing us to know each of them better. By the end of day two, everyone starts playing a game where by calling the spirit of a departed man. But in the end, the game everyone starts playing soon becomes the truth but in a way nobody could expect…

Unfortunately, the story that has been told in A Death in Gunj is true, and adapted from Mukul Sharma’s short story. Shutu, the main protagonist is a quiet and harmless young man, whose only one look can convince you in his kindness and high hope from his life. However, it’s him, whose apparently unfortunate past makes his smile to disappear at some point by giving you an opportunity to know his other side, which was not so pleasant.

In the end, A Death in the Gunj is a slow-moving film with a strong subject matter. It revolves around the emotional devastation and disappointment of life, when one does not know which way to go. Just not to give much away from this film, Sensharma comes with a decent directorial debut that will delight any moviegoer’s eyes. It is about people who unintentionally contribute to a tragic conclusion, which once again we, as human beings, always fail to identify ahead of time. Saying that, Sensharma’s film may not be one of the best, but it is something that can be seen once it opens in the theaters near you.

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