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Control Dynamics

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| Published: January 31, 2018 12:10 am Indian Express Film Club Screening of the Film ‘A Death in Gunj’ in the capital New Delhi on Thursday. Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal New Delhi

A coming-of-age film, A Death in the Gunj follows the life of a shy student Shyamal Chatterjee, a name he does not connect with as much as with his nickname, Shutu. He uses a road trip with his family to McCluskiegunj, an old Anglo-Indian town, as an escape from his failed semester. At the outset, the makings of a perfect family holiday are in place, but something is not right.

In the coming week, Shutu’s quiet unravelling is overlooked by the revellers in the family, until the holiday ends with an implosion. Set in 1979, A Death in the Gunj, directed by Konkana Sen Sharma, was screened as part of The Indian Express Film Club, at the India Habitat Centre, recently.

Shubhra Gupta, The Indian Express film critic, told the audience that Sen Sharma had told her that this was a story she has grown up listening to. The story was written by her father, Mukul Sharma, and each frame was clear in her head when she started filming it. “The film is so relatable. People who grew up or were born during that time tell me that things were exactly the way it was shown in the film,” she said, opening the discussion following the screening.

The audience held forth largely on power dynamics in a family and among friends — who bullies and who gets bullied, showcasing of masculinity and conspiracy theories on the scenes left open for interpretation. One point agreed upon by all was that every family has a Shutu who others like to bully, who is told what do to, and is the fall guy. Indrajit Banerjee, a marketing professional, said that he was like Vikram (played by Ranvir Shorey) while he was pursuing engineering. “Not only me, but a group of us where involved in casual bullying, as this film highlights. It was like a flow, as shown in the film. When I watched the film for the first time, I told myself that I had committed a crime,” he said.

Harshita Aggarwal, a college student, brought in the topic of masculinity in the discussion. “Vikram was a tough guy and he was married. You could feel that Shutu was always trying to be like him,” she says. The audience went back with lessons on family, power dynamics in relationships and the ignored act of bullying.

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