There are films that make you love an actor, and then there are others, where a character grows on you. A Death in the Gunj by Konkona Sensharma is one where an actor and his character both made sense. Vikrant Massey played the protagonist Shutu in the film, and I’d like to call him that as I know the reason behind it. Years before, I had read a book in Bangla called Ghunpoka. It’s one of the finest novels by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay and one of the best on Melancholia, ever written. The protagonist there, Shyam, was a melancholic youth, eating on his own life in bits and pieces. I wouldn’t say Shutu has a great resemblance with Shyam, but there is a faint familiarity.
The film begins with visitors entering the gunj, McLuskiegunj in Bihar, 1978. There’s a couple and their child, visiting their parents with a friend and cousin Shutu. More friends arrive and it is a fete on cold winter evenings that turns mostly into a melee – in the sense that more people are hurt. There’s no denying that Shutu seems unimpressive in the beginning. He’s shy, a little less masculine in his looks, that may even be bordering to cute, and he’s timid. You notice the flamboyance of the other characters immediately – the retired father, the then modern mother, the pragmatic son, the endearing daughter-in-law, the sexy friend, the flirt friend and a nice kid. Everyone flourishes, has their own scenes, frames, and dialogues, while Shutu sulks at a corner. Well, he has his own reasons, primary being the untimely death of his father.
Disclaimer: The piece below is NOT a review, merely a humble analysis or something similar, thereby not covering entirety of the film or its plot.
Lootera made me cry. That perhaps, could say it all. But the film deserves much more to be written about it. To begin with the laurels, it opens with an elaborate Durga Puja at a Zamindar house somewhere in Bengal. We have watched Durga Puja portrayed in quite a few Hindi films, none of them much to my liking except Kahaani, perhaps. There were Parineeta and Devdas with gaudy, pompous imagery of the festival and over-jewelled women hovering near the idol rustling their expensive designer sarees. Kahaani, for the first time presented a real piece of the puja from the streets of contemporary Calcutta, normal women resplendent in plain red-bordered-white-sarees performing the vermilion ritual on Bijoya Dashami. Then came Lootera, with an old world Durga Puja in a village, exactly the kind of story many of us have heard from our parents and grandparents. There used to be one hundred eight earthen pradips (lamps) and the same number of lotus blooms for the Ashtami puja, there used to be makeshift bamboo platforms staging the local village play or hired ‘opera’s from Calcutta, there used to be wealthy Zamindar women dressed in dhakaisarees and full-sleeved blouses with their neatly plaited braids and silver brooches. All these recreated perfectly in Lootera made me wonder about the director being a ‘non-Bengali’ as we term such people. I don’t know if he did the research himself, but it is nearly perfect. I say nearly for minute glitches like a stud on the wrong nose of Pakhi’s sakhi Miss Majumdar. Bengali women wear their studs, pins and rings on the left plateau of their noses. There is also a minor aberration of the ladies wearing coloured glass bangles in a few scenes. Unless the village shown in the film was meant to be set in precise vicinity of Bihar, the women of Bengal never wore coloured glass bangles, especially Zamindar women who had kilograms of gold to spare.