At the very basic Gurgaon is a story of a dysfunctional family and sibling rivalry in the time-honoured tradition of Hindi cinema, tracing its lineage back to classics like Deewar , Mother India , Ganga Jamuna and Aurat . But there’s a lot more. Cinematographer-turned-filmmaker Shanker Raman lends his debut film its own distinct identity with the thriller mode and the noir mood. There are twists and turns, hidden skeletons and revelations aplenty to keep the audience guessing but all made to unfold in a restrained way, lending poignancy to the intrigues and deceptions.
There’s Kehri Singh (Pankaj Tripathy), the head of the family, who has successfully transitioned from his agrarian roots to the modern real estate business and his estranged brother-in-law Bhupinder Hooda (Aamir Bashir), both carrying the burden of an unresolved guilt, seeking continual redemption in their own ways. There’s the elder son Nikki (Akshay Oberoi) left bitter by the perceived biases of his own parents. Despite being the son he gets chided for his failures, undermined for the daughter Preet (Ragini Khanna). But then, is she not a pawn, a toy as well, throttled by an overwhelming gratitude, her destiny in the hands of her father?
- Director: Shanker Raman
- Cast: Pankaj Tripathi, Ragini Khanna, Akshay Oberoi, Aamir Bashir, Shalini Vatsa, Srinivas Sunderrajan, Ashish Verma
- Storyline: Against the backdrop of a dysfunctional family, themes of sibling rivalry, kidnappings, crime and violence are explored
Raman has an easy way of slipping in the details. In the opening scene you have Kehri Singh celebrating his victory in the Rotary Club elections when the daughter Preet returns from academic stint abroad. As she mingles with guests outside her brother Nikki warns her: “Bhitar jaa, bidesi ho li tu (Get inside the home, enough of your foreign jaunt).” Moments later, the upholder of patriarchy, Nikki finds himself at the receiving end of it, getting hit by his drunk father, his swagger and male entitlement instantly undone. On the other hand is the mother (Shalini Vatsa), a keeper of the dark heart of the family. Yet she has agency, perhaps the only one who is able to assert herself despite the restrictions she is bound in. It’s an intricate palette of characters, made more nuanced by the all-round proficient performances.
It’s how Raman contextualises the film that adds more heft to it. The milieu is also a character, the driving force. Some things are a given—understood than explained or elaborated on. The kidnapping of the guitarist Anand Murthy (Srinivas Sunderrajan) for a personal rock show by the Bon Jovi-loving younger son Chintu (the excellent Ashish Verma, my pick from the ace cast) is replete with black humour, his way of getting back at being denied entry at a rock concert. Nikki and he are the original inhabitants of rural Gurgaon overtaken and sidelined by the shiny malls and condos and its swishy urban inhabitants. Friction between the widely different cultures erupts at odd places— gunshots at toll booths and fights at clubs being emblematic of the flashpoints typical of the outskirts of the Capital.
There’s a line in the film—“ Gurgaon ki zameen ki tarah banjar” (Arid like the soil of Gurgaon). The film left me with a feeling of overwhelming tragic waste. The conflict zones that are the family and the city of Gurgaon becomes a microcosm for depicting wastelands of all kinds—literal and metaphorical; physical, psychological and emotional.