Opening this week

A Death in the Gunj review: The characters and plotting are weak but the mood and melancholy linger

Director Konkona Sen Sharma’s period film has style to spare.

Konkona Sen Sharma takes a short story and tales from her own childhood to write a period drama set in 1979. Captured with diffused lensing and an eclectic cast of characters, A Death in the Gunj is a warm homage to a vintage world of hairdos, collars, prints and conversations.

The coming of age drama opens with a shot of a body in the boot of an Ambassador car and then goes into a flashback from a week before. The events unfold during a family vacation in the Anglo-Indian community of McCluskiegunj in Jharkhand. We have come to expect that a film with a large ensemble cast that is set at a single venue is going to centre on a dysfunctional family. In Sen Sharma’s script, the events pivot around a shy young man named Shutu, a misfit among the boisterous and wacky relatives.

The venue for the family vacation is the home of the Bakshis (Om Puri and Tanuja). Visiting them are their son Nandu (Gulshan Devaiah) with his wife Bonnie (Tillotama Shome) and their daughter Tani, accompanied by their nephew Shutu (Vikrant Massey), a withdrawn young man who is confused about his place in society and who is dealing with feelings of seclusion.

Also invited to stay is Bonnie’s single and ready to mingle friend Mimi (Kalki Koechlin), who has her tentacles into married family friend Vikram (Ranvir Shorey) and the naive Shutu.

A Death in the Gunj.

Shutu, who feels a connectedness with his eight-year-old cousin Tani, is the dog in the manger. Egged on by the rogue Vikram, the men in the group repeatedly pick on the timid Shutu. Through the story, Sen Sharma drops enough hints about the impending tragedy and Shutu’s gradual meltdown.

What the story lacks in substance, it makes up for in style and atmospherics, underlined by Sagar Desai’s score and Sirsha Ray’s cinematography. The tension of a missing child, the banter and frisson in the family, the mean picking on Shutu, and Mimi’s bold overtures work well. What do not are the stiff English dialogue and the theatrical characters. Of the cast, Massey stands out for his performance as the hurting man whose emotions are on a slow burn. Shorey, Shome, Koechlin and Devaiah pitch in enthusiastically. While the characters from A Death in the Gunj don’t stay with you, the melancholy and mood linger on.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.