A Death in the Gunj

Konkona SensharmaIndia104 minutes201614AColourEnglish Hindi Bengali

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Award-winning actor Konkona Sensharma makes her feature debut as a writer-director with this coming-of-age story about a shy young Indian student who quietly and fatefully unravels during a family road trip.

Having made an indelible impact on Indian cinema with her work in front of the camera, renowned actor Konkona Sensharma (Talvar) makes her debut as a writer-director with this tense family drama.

It's the late 1970s, and just outside the quiet Indian resort town of McCluskiegunj, a family gathers in their country home and prepares to ring in the new year with old friends. On the periphery of the family's focus hovers the young man Shutu (Vikrant Massey), an innocent attempting to navigate a world that's unkind to his sensitive nature.

Shutu would rather spend time with his friend's young daughter than engage with the adults, but he is eventually drawn into the messy realm of mature emotions and desires. Relationships in these close quarters begin to simmer and strain, and Shutu struggles to define his masculinity and sense of self — even as the atmosphere becomes suffused with lust and mystery.

Sensharma was a star of Indian Parallel Cinema, the movement made famous by the likes of Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen, and her directorial approach shares a realist sensibility with the work of those directors. Shot on location in Jharkhand State, the film is deeply steeped in a sense of place; Sensharma's camera captures the natural beauty of the family home's surroundings as she patiently lets her Chekhovian story build to its dramatic and tragic conclusion.

With a star-studded ensemble cast that includes Kalki Koechlin (Margarita With a Straw), Tillotama Shome (Monsoon Wedding), and Gulshan Devaiah (Peddlers), A Death in the Gunj announces the multi-talented Sensharma as an exciting new filmmaker.

CAMERON BAILEY

DramaRelationshipsFamilyComing of AgeFirst FeatureFemale Director