Set within the familiarity of the tropes of a family holiday film, A Death in the Gunj (which might suddenly remind an alert viewer of Renoir’s A Day in the Country) gradually moves into extremely uncomfortable zones of human relationships, passions and loneliness, unravelling the darker shades of human nature, which when once revealed instigate the greatest fears that are difficult to assuage. While watching the film, it is difficult not to recall Aparna Sen’s short film Picnic made for the Doordarshan in the 1980s, in which Konkona had a significant role. However, Picnic was not a thriller, but a very disquieting tale of human relationships with insinuations of adultery, envy and possessiveness. Perhaps, Sen Sharma has consciously or unconsciously drawn upon a creative legacy by adapting her father’s story (Mukul Sharma) and alluding to her mother’s vision as a filmmaker, while dedicating the film to Vishal Bharadwaj, one of the greatest cinematic talents in contemporary India.
Supported by a extraordinarily talented ensemble cast comprising veterans such as Tanuja and Om Puri and extremely promising present day actors such as Gulshan Devaiah and Tillottoma Shome, apart from Ranbir Shorey, Jim Sarbh, Kalki and the endearing Vikrant, A Death in the Gunj does not need stars to shine in cinema halls. Its strength is its script, its powerhouse of acting talents, and the effortless eeriness it creates. And, Sagar Desai’s music is a definite plus. In a long time, the film has revived memories of the New Wave Indian cinema which are gradually fading out in the overwhelming glamour and glitz of formula-driven potboilers.