Thursday, 6 July 2017

Agantuk (1991)

[*** stars / *****] 

An impostor? An opportunist? Greedy? Anila's (Mamta Shankar) long lost uncle Manmohan Mitra (Utpal Dutt), her sole surviving relative, returns to meet her after 35 years of running away from home. Anila (Mamata Shankar) is caught between happiness and suspicion, her husband Sudhindra (Dipankar Dey) is wary.

Aguntuk (The Stranger) was Satyajit Ray's last film. It stands out as a deep, intellectual comment on humanity, the idea of civilisation and where exactly are we going. 

Ray's genius is in allowing the audience to interpret and read between the lines. Mitra represents free, unconventional thinking while Anila's family stands for the routine and the tested. Mitra is a metaphorical alien to traditional, largely unquestioned surroundings. As these distinct worlds collide, a rebel knows that he has no place in a crowd.

Though not as evocative as Ray's other simpler, gripping, widely accessible drama masterpieces, a master is at work here. Expect intellectual fireworks and deep, passing insights, a trademark quality in Ray's latter films. 

Sunday, 2 July 2017

A Death in the Gunj (2017)

[***1/2 stars / *****] 

In 1979, an extended family gets together at a sleepy village home of McCluskieganj, owned by their own family seniors, OP Bakshi and Anupama Bakshi (Om Puri and Tanuja). 

The group: Married couple Nandu and Bonnie (Gulshan Devaiah and Tillotama Shome) with their little daughter Tani (Arya Sharma). 

The boisterous alpha male Vikram (Ranvir Shorey), the 'soon-to-go' to Australia, Brain (Jim Sarbh), flirty, sensuous Mimi (Kalki Koechlin) are all there. 

But even in this varied group, the young, fragile, troubled Shutu (Vikram Massey) stands out for the audience, while he is sidetracked by his relatives. This is Shutu's story and through him a penetrating magnifying glass on bullying, introverts, human nature, meekness, and isolation.  

Simmer, Simmer
Actress Konkana Sen Sharma's directorial debut A Death in the Gunj is a little gem of a movie, with a slow, drawn out simmering, haunting quality. 

This is no Agatha Christie-like murder mystery, as the title may suggest. A death is promised in the first scene itself. The film deftly cuts through seven days leading to a tragedy. Just like life, you don't know what to expect.  

Sharma triumphs in lingering over the geography and the characters. The wonderful cast seems less made of actors and more of real people. 

The director succeeds in great understatements, revealing only what is required, leaving much unsaid and thus engaging us continuously. Her approach fits into building up a powerful drama. 

Undoubtedly one of the films of the year, A Death in the Gunj is available on Amazon Prime (India).