Monday, October 30, 2017

A Death in the Gunj - Movie Review

It’s almost been 3 months since this movie released and I deeply regret watching it so late! Directed by the brilliant, Konkona Sensharma, ‘A Death in the Gunj’ is a fast-paced thriller which leaves you with an eerie feeling.
The story is based in a place called McCluskieganj in erstwhile Bihar (since this movie is based in 1978-79). A family arrives from Calcutta to their paternal home for vacations and they bring along their cousin, Shyamal AKA Shutu (played superbly by Vikrant Massey). During their stay over the New Year’s holidays, we get to see the layers that lie beneath their relationships. A newly-married friend of the family, Vikram (Ranveer Shorey), who has a fling with a carefree, Mimi (Kalki Koechlin). An elderly couple (Om Puri and Tanuja) who love their nephew, Shutu, but offer him little emotional support. And all of them picking on a 23-yr old Shutu, for being shy and sensitive.
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Shutu, in turn, has demons that he is fighting within – his father’s death that he has not been able to come to terms with, a discorded relationship with his mother and most importantly – being constantly prodded to ‘toughen up’! It is here where Konkona, the writer and the director, displays her impeccable craft as a film-maker. Using subtle nuances, she establishes the character of Shutu – shy, na├»ve, awkward among adults and trying to get over his father’s demise. And Vikrant Massay shines in this role with a subdued, yet powerful performance. By the end of the one hour fifty minutes long film, your heart goes out to this poor boy, who only craves for some emotional support and understanding.
The film also tries to throw light on how the society expects a man to ‘rise to the occasion’, in the face of an untimely death in the family. Shutu is shown as a sensitive boy (who is called pretty and ‘girl-like’ by Mimi) who cries wearing his father’s old sweater and yearns for compassion, which he finds in the form of his little niece, Tani. Through the film, one can see how indifferent people around him are to his pain and one can relate to the final step that he takes in the climax.
In her debut film itself, Konkona manages to get a perfect balance of all the major departments of film-making – cinematography, screenplay, dialgoues and background score – everything insync with the theme. Casting an ensemble of good actors make it a treat to watch. Even the domestic help, Maniya, looks authentic and performs ably well. But in the end, Vikrant Massay takes the cake. I would watch it again just for him and his menacing eyes thatd show his suffering.
Sadly, such gems often go unnoticed since we tend to brand such movies as ‘Art cinema/parallel cinema’. But this movie is a gem not to be missed!

My Rating: 4/5.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Vunnadhi Okate Zindagi - Movie Review

Over the years, we have seen a lot of love triangles where two best friends fall for the same girl. From Saagar to Saajan in Hindi to the likes of Hanuman Junction in Telugu. While most of these movies revolved around the tried and tested formula of sacrificing ones love for their best friend, Vunnadhi Okate Zindagi (VOZ) tried to break this convention. Does it succeed? Not really!

The movie is essentially the story of a bunch of chaddi-buddies, of which Abhi (played subtly by Ram Pothineni) and Vasu (played by Sree Vishnu) are as close as joined at their hips! To show tremors in their otherwise thick friendship, enter Maha (played beautifully by Anupama Parmeshwaran) and Meghana AKA Maggi (played by Lavanya Tripathi). The movie begins on a no non-sense note, where the two friends confess to each other about loving the same girl and leave it to the girl to decide who she finally wants. This seems a lot believable, considering the fact that they are two people who know each other in and out. The story is convincing enough till here. But then, the writers and directors are suddenly reminded that its a Telugu movie - and they add doses of stupid twists and unrequited sacrifices.

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As expected, the two part ways, only to be united four years later at a common friends wedding. To add a few laughs, we have Priyadarshi (Pelli Choopulu was his best and nothing seems to match up to it!) and a few other laugh worthy sequences. Maggi, as the wedding planner, is more involved in the feud between these friends than in arranging the wedding. And honestly, by then you are not even bothered about her as you want the friends to make up somehow and end the 2 hour 30 minutes long tirade!

I would blame the screenplay writers the most for this bumpy ride! The movie has a good plot, with a great scope to be simple and yet, shine. Probably we need more Juhi Trivedis, Ayan Mukherjees or even Sekhar Kammulas to deliver a simple concept beautifully. And also, filmmakers need to get over their urge to add elements of mass appeal and stick to simple story-telling. The huge success of movies like Fidaa and Arjun Reddy should finally make filmmakers concentrate on the content and the narrative. 

As for the performances, Ram and Anupama Parmeshwaran steal the show. Special mention to the delicate and nuanced performance by Anupama. She has stunning eyes which convey much more than her dialogues. Lavanya Tripathi had an inconsequential, half-baked character, with nothing worth mentioning. Sree Vishnu had the next best character as Vasu, Abhi's best friend. But he does not match up to Ram or Anupama. Wish they had cast someone better for this role. 

A good cinema for me is one which keeps me hooked to the screen and one where I seldom check my phone. Here, I was on my phone for quite a considerable amount of time. I guess, that explains.

My Rating: 2/5