A Death in the Gunj Review

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You have no idea how much I had been looking forward to A Death in the Gunj, written and directed by Konkona Sensharma and starring some great actors like Kalki Koechlin. I saw some wonderful reviews of the film online before it even released in mainstream cinemas, as some people had the chance to see the film in screenings at film festivals early on. This further increased my anticipation of what I expected to be an impactful film at the least. If you are just as excited about the film, haven’t seen it yet and would like to form your own opinion of it, I suggest you stop reading the remaining part of the review.

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The matter of fact is, A Death in the Gunj was disappointing. It was shockingly underwhelming and predictable, and not the least thrilling if you ask me. There is only one point of mystery in the film, which I admit was delivered effectively and connected the very first scene with the very last one. But the middle of that story, was nothing special.

A Death in the Gunj is about a young man struggling with life after the death of his father, and how his depression and emotional struggle reaches a sad climax amidst indifferent and selfish relatives with whom he is spending the holidays.

While I enjoy slow-paced  but meaningful films that create a sense of comfort and ease, like Piku for example, I believe it only works when we are able to establish a genuine and positive connection with the characters early on in the story. I was unfortunately not able to connect with any of the characters in this film. In fact, I felt the film did an excellent job of making the characters repugnant, not just to the lead character Shyamal, but to me, the audience. Maybe that was the point. But the issue is that, I also did not feel any connection to Shyamal.

I think the struggle of Shyamal remained as much of a mystery to the audience as it did to his relatives. Shyamal as a character is such an unbearing personality, that it is easy to dismiss him although he is the eyes through which we experience the story. He is much like an object in the film, represented by his father’s old sweater, his notebook, a moth… but the meanings and emotions that he attaches to those objects were never quite explained to us. So as I watched his turmoil intensify and grow on screen, I did not understand him and his reasons, and after a while, it was just watching a man who has lost his mental stability and getting ever yet closer to the edge without anyone else noticing.

When I read my own words describing the film, I wonder if this was Konkona’s intention all along? –Making the Shyamal character so unimpressive that even we would nearly forget his presence… Could it be that the film  has been implemented so utterly realistically that I’ve failed to get the point? Perhaps… I’m not sure.

I AM sure that knowing the excellence of Konkona’s art may have increased expectations a little too far for this film, but it doesn’t change the fact that the above mentioned drawbacks disappointed me. When the film ended, I just felt so underwhelmed.

Ek Thi Daayan

I had high expectations from this film, I don’t know why. I guess I was on a Emraan Hashmi high after Dirty Picture and this film also has Konkona Sen Sharma, one of the most talented women in Bollywood. And I’ve always liked Bollywood mystic-horror films about ghosts, superstition and witchcraft. Raaz 3 was also about witchcraft and that was unfortunately a huge disappointment, I must review that too sometime. Ek Thi Daayan is better than Raaz 3, probably because it was produced by the real life daayan Ekta Kapoor. Just kidding! She does look like a witch though.

The film starts off fairly strong in the first half. It’s intriguing and scary too. But the second half, especially the last half hour really lost me because it became too ridiculous. I think script writers sometimes forget that in horror, one must make the story believable in order to scare the audience. Once it loses that, it’s not scary anymore.

Emraan Hashmi is playing a magician in this film.. who has the stupidest name on the face of the world– Bobo. Which bright writer’s idea was this fabulous name? It definitely beats “Bunny” from Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani.

Anyway, while Bobo the Magician is performing his tricks on stage, he hears a voice, the voice of his younger sister who died as a child. When he hears the voice, he cannot complete the trick and his assistant gets hurt.

In order to figure out what is happening to him, Bobo goes to his childhood psychiatrist and seeks his help. The psychiatrist hypnotizes him and Bobo goes back to his childhood and tells the events that lead to his sister’s death. His sister was sacrificed by a witch and Bobo had killed the witch.

The first half is basically about what happened in his childhood and the second half of the film is what happens when he thinks that the witch has reincarnated and returned.

Watch this film if you’re bored and if you get the film for free! And of course if you’re an Emraan fan. But don’t raise your expectations. Actually, it would be best watched with friends on a weekend night as you can make fun of the stupid scenes in the second half together if you get bored. I watched it with my mom and a big bowl of popcorn.

Something funny from the film: Did you know that hell looks like a dirty old apartment basement? I guess the film had a tight budget!

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani

Before I get into the details of the film, if you’re a Bollywood lover, then you have to see this film at least once because 1) it’s a blockbuster 2) the songs are awesome 3) this film has established Ranbir as the new superstar and Deepika as one of the top actresses.

I’m actually confused about my conviction of this film. I love it, but it’s not perfect. It’s definitely not another DDLJ as Deepika has recently claimed in one of her interviews. But it’s an entertaining, modern film about friendship and love.

I absolutely love the first half. Ranbir has already proved himself as an actor, especially with Barfi. His performance is great. I love Deepika as Naina, the character is so different than what she has played before. I think she has done a great job in this film and I’m glad she’s exploring different kinds of roles.

I really like the scene where Naina and Bunny meet for the first time at the train station, although the bit about Naina having to run to make it to the train was unnecessary. Karan Johar clearly wanted to make a tribute to DDLJ. The scene did succeed at reminding me of DDLJ in a good way.

Aditya Roy Kapoor and Kalki Koechlin also shined in their roles. I’m liking both more and more, especially Kalki. She was just hilarious in the fight scene in the first half. I think she’s a natural actor and her Hindi is not bad considering she’s learned it recently. As for Aditya, I think he’s going to go places.

As for the second half, I have some issues with it. The second half was not as original as I had expected it to be. The script of the second half is actually predictable and cliched. The drastic changes in Naina’s looks and Bunny’s thoughts are not convincing. The storyline is a bit underdeveloped in that sense, but the first half saves the film.

Since it’s a Karan Johar film, you get plenty of colorful shots, dancing and romance in the film. The songs are great, I especially like Balam Pichari, Badtameez Dil and SubhanAllah. Some of the lyrics are dumb in Balam Pichkari, but the music is good. Madhuri Dixit has also done a special appearance in the first song, a ghagra. It was entertaining to see Ranbir romance Madhuri, whom his dad had romanced in the 90s. Madhuri was looking gorgeous.

One other thing that bothered me was some of the girls’ outfits. They’re wearing short skirts, sleeveless shirts and shorts on the mountains, in freezing weather! Kjo loves to freeze actresses in his movies! I wish Kjo and Manish Malhotra would actually consider the scenes and locations when selecting outfits. I also found the strapless saree of Deepika’s in the second half distasteful. But the rest of her sarees, especially the blue one is beautiful. The orange dance outfit in the second half did not suit her body though.

Now let’s come to the casting of Deepika and Ranbir. The script of the film is good, so I definitely don’t think that the success of the film is due to this pairing, but no doubt, it did help the film garner extra attention. Deepika and Ranbir dated for a year, back in the beginning of their careers. They broke up in a bad way and Deepika mentioned on Koffee with Karan that Ranbir had cheated on her multiple times. Both moved on to new relationships and apparently were able to get over their negative feelings to sign this movie. Right now Deepika is dating Ranveer Singh and Ranbir is dating Katrina.

I like this film mainly because the Naina character touched me. I’m so much like her and the dialogues between Bunny and Naina on the mountains were very touching. I loved how he told her that she is cool, that she beats people, hikes better than anyone and sings Bachchan songs. He says that she needs to stop insulting herself and start loving herself. It was a great dialogue.

To sum it up, YJHD is a fun film, go for it!