Gurgaon movie review: Aliens in their own, bloody land
Cast: Akshay Oberoi, Pankaj Tripathi, Aamir Bashir, Ragini Khanna, Shalini Vatsa, Arjun Singh Faujdar, Ashish Verma, Mukul Chaddha, Yogi Singha, Anna Adon, Srinivas Sunderajan
Director: Shanker Raman
Several films have been made on Gurgaon, but none explores and explains the estranged relationship and indelible bond of the city’s original inhabitants with their own land like Shanker Raman’s noir thriller Gurgaon does. Born of and set in new Gurgaon — Cyber City that’s simultaneously bustling, busy, growing, and rotting at its core — the film opens with a disconnect that’s all too apparent and common. The expensive, large house of Kehri Singh (Pankaj Tripathi), owner of Preet Estate, has a row of palm trees decorating its entrance. A car from the airport brings Preet (Ragini Khanna), and her friend Sophie home. Inside men are celebrating Kehri Singh’s victory in the Rotary Club election. Kehri Singh’s elder son Nikki Singh (Akshay Oberoi), younger son Chintu (Ashish Verma), their friend Rajvir (Arjun Fauzdar) are taking the ice bucket challenge.
Everything Kehri Singh owns belongs to Preet — his adopted daughter. His own son, Nikki, he says, is manhoos, no good. He failed in everything he’s done — school, business, and that’s why his plan to build Power House Gym is dismissed rudely. Kehri Singh has kept that land for Preet’s office. A foreign-trained architect, she will take over the business and her first assignment is Preet Nagar, a Rs 25,000 crore township that will have a “Shanghai, Dubai-waali feel”. In this world, where women are the most dispensable items, where the pursuit of power and money and perennial, Preet owes her special status to a dark twist of fate and a guruji’s pronouncement. Nikki, hurting from the insult and loss of power, sets in motion a chain of events by placing a huge bet on Virendra Sehwag’s century. Gurgaon’s plot is simple, linear.
A lost bet requires a plan to get money. It involves a kidnapping, satta boss Vikki, Rajvir and his Mamaji’s house, an innocent bystander Anand Murthy (Srinivas Sunderrajan) and, eventually, the special skills of Kehri Singh’s brother Bhupi (Aamir Bashir). But the idiot plan and its inept execution ensure that it’s a tumble to a disaster, tragedy. Bhupi brings with him flashbacks to a life before Gurgaon was handed over, one plot at a time, to builders. The lines on his face tell the story of a city that demanded unspeakable sacrifices, which often began at home. But today the violence — whether over '27 at a toll booth, or a perceived slight — is often for reaffirmation of their macho power, and the victims are often people who have intruded into their land, innocent bystanders whose very existence is taken as a taunt. Gurgaon grabs you instantly with its moody cinematography (Vivek Shah) and thrilling background score (Naren Chandavarkar, Benedict Taylor, sound design by Mohandas V.P.).
The film draws its power from the unpredictability of what its simmering characters may do, and from situations that may at any time go out of their control. The film diligently follows the themes, style of noir — neon lights, urban landscape, corruption, squalor and glamour living cheek-by-jowl — and even draws some bits from genre predecessors, like the murder in the car. The sites writer-director Raman picks — from the toll booth to the garbage dump, from the empty posh bar, to the hotel with a jacuzzi bath — are all rich with meaning. Home — that’s one of the many fascinating themes of Gurgaon. These are spaces where there are strong familial bonds, places where business is conducted and from where every member draws power. Yet the families, living with debilitating guilt and secrets, are dysfunctional. The upholstered, plush living rooms and manicured lawns have a haunted look that’s disturbing.
The film’s script, screenplay — by Shanker Raman, Sourabh R, Vipin Bhatti, Yogi Singha — and dialogue soaked in the flavour of the city and its ethos. The language we hear — violent, abusive, is born of a world that’s long gone — a world of farm lands, cow, milk and water. Gurgaon has an exceptional cast of actors. Pankaj Tripathi, as the always drunk Kehri Singh, speaks little, but controls the film. His grip over it loosening a bit when Aamir Bashir arrives. OMG!! Where has he been all this while? He invests Bhupi with a menacing mix of a dark past and a sharp focus on the task at hand. Akshay Oberoi’s Nikki Singh is like a double-edge sword. A man so desperate and disturbed that the only way he can feel he is alive is by watching someone writhing in pain. Don’t miss it.