India release date: June 2, 2017 Genre: Drama – thriller Duration: 1 hour 50 mins
There’s just one thing wrong with Konkona Sen Sharma’s directorial debut: Konkona Sen Sharma; the woman butchers a perfectly good story and a brilliant cast.
The film plodded from predictable bus stop to bus stop, along the Ring Road, in a straight line, and the only redeeming feature of the film is that the central character gets laid twice.
There was so much to explore in the film: the nuances, the central hollowness, the fear, the inner mystery, the fear of letting go, the 70s Bengali angst… but this woman chose to ignore it all. She stuck to an End Blyton mystery template. What Hahahappened At McCluskiegunj In 1979.
After the film I was thinking of Peter Weir’s masterpiece, Picnic At Hanging Rock, the turn-of-century Australian mystery of schoolgirls who went missing from a picnic (true story). Similar framing as Konky’s film. But see what Peter Weir did: there’s such a deeper significance… you realise the real mystery is human existence, not the missing girls… you know what I’m saying?
–Shubho Sengupta | Digital adman; and the first Indian to cycle Manali-Leh solo unsupported, July 2002.
“A Death in the Gunj will remain with you for long, because it evokes an unmistakable sense of a place, of a holiday home: a feeling familiar to most. At 107 minutes, A Death in the Gunj is impressively restrained, with no superfluous scenes and subplots, making this an assured debut. Its on-the-nose climax, which breaks character, is the only glaring flaw, leaving you slightly dissatisfied. But there’s much to take away, much to savour.”
“Bullying, especially in impressionable childhood and adolescence, can change you in fundamental ways. It can make you a needy, clingy, ingratiating people-pleaser on the one hand, and an even bigger bully on the other… Konkona Sensharma’s assured directorial debut unpacks this complex sentiment with feeling, and gives us a layered film with memorable characters about the games people play, and how, sometimes, that can have terrible consequences.”
“A keenly observed drama, rich in atmospherics, brilliantly performed, and yes, it has a slow-burning rhythm. But it’s never boring. The unhurried pace… is entirely fitting for the world she transports us to.”
“No matter who you are or where you’ve reached in life, the dining table in the family home recognizes your vulnerability. These trips are an escape from real life, but also an uneasy return to the environment that made you escape to real life.”
“Sen Sharma’s understated directorial style is steeped in a tradition that goes all the way back to Satyajit Ray’s Aranyer Din Ratri, and that has distinct shades of Aparna Sen’s 36 Chowringhee Lane, but her film is its own beautiful beast. It is marked by a keen eye for detail and an appreciation of the complexities of human relationships.”
“Pre-release features have brought up films like Aranyer Din Raatri and Picnic at Hanging Rock as possible progenitors, but the connections are, at best, on the surface. From the former, we get the conceit of city dwellers away from “civilisation,” and maybe you could point to the memory game finding an echo in a game of kabaddi, both leading to character insights. From the latter, we get the missing girl and pan flute passages in the score. But Death is something else altogether. It’s about death itself.”