Gurgaon movie star rating: 2.5
Gurgaon movie director: Shanker Raman
Gurgaon movie cast: Akshay Oberoi, Ragini Khanna, Pankaj Tripathi
There’s something about Haryana. And it’s pride, the chrome-and-steel-girded Gurgaon, whose tall multi-storeys glint off the snaking metro line, whose fancy malls and cars jostle side by side with displaced farmers and a marginalised work force, and over-riding it all is a feeling that sharks roam the streets, teeth out. One bite, and you’re gone.
Shanker Raman’s Gurgaon is a bleak beacon on the shockingly unequal lives which inhabit the glitzy grimy township. The haves are typified by big land-owners who were at one-time land-grabbers. Property magnate Kehri Singh (Tripathi) is wealthy beyond his wildest dreams, but his conscience — he still has one—is an unwanted irritant. He has a dark past, and as his secrets come up for air, things unravel, for him and his family: older son Nikki (Oberoi), younger lad Chintu (Verma) and daughter Preet (Khanna), who has been away to college in the US, and is now back.
The haves rule, but their house is divided. And the have-nots try taking advantage, as and when they can: the law of the jungle, which is what Gurgaon is.
Raman’s film speaks in perfect tongues. The guttural, harsh Haryanvi is the hardest to emulate: in that, everyone is on board. It looks at the casual, cruel misogyny which springs out of implacable, unshakeable patriarchy that rules the lives of the protagonist. Kehri Singh’s word is law, and the reason why he favours his daughter over his sons takes us straight to the heart of darkness.
The most interesting part of the film is the struggle between entitled emasculated male pride and entrenched power structures, and the women around them who have to make room for themselves in this world, where they can be killed as soon as they are born.
But there’s something in the treatment, a distancing and an underlining, which keeps us at an arm’s length. The film’s brutalities—and there are plenty—are dulled, as is the impact.
That’s made up for, almost, by the terrific ensemble cast. Tripathi’s growly patriarch who is being eaten up from the inside but is still clinging on to his perch, is splendid. So is Bashir, as his younger brother who comes to his rescue when all else fails. Khanna and Vatsa, as daughter and mother, stand out too. Everyone else, including Oberoi and Varma, fits right in.
Gurgaon is dark and dystopic, and a solid, atmospheric debut. It tells us that power can never be permanent, and how the good may not always win. Uncomfortable, but true.