"....shikari jungle ke niyam roz toran lage toh samajh lo jungle ki toh aafat aa gayi. Maahre 'gaon' mein toh harr koi chidi maar ban reya se, par jis jungle mein chidi hi na ho, wahan chidi maar karga ke?"
The film starts with the above lead-in, but one does not really understand the meaning at the time. As the film unfolds, the meaning and depth of the opening statement becomes clear. Gurgaon is a thriller at its core, but Shanker Raman (Direction, Screenplay) takes his time and sets his own pace, easing the audience down the rabbit hole. It may seem that the narrative is single tracked but to think that would be a mistake. Gurgaon is brimming with dark undertones, both literal and metaphoric. Gurgaon is used as a metaphor for the family which has deeply buried secrets, just like the city, standing on the land that once belonged to the farmers.
The most beautiful thing about the film is how the characters unravel, layer by layer. Kehri Singh (Pankaj Tripathi) is shown as a family man, strict but self-made. As we progress, things about his past are revealed and this completely shifts the feel of the narrative. The film also highlights a power struggle within the family and brings the age old toxic masculinity to the forefront. Politics, underworld, betting and female infanticide are also touched upon but in a subtle way. The film always remains understated and in control, never opting for cheap thrills. In fact, the use of background score and lighting is phenomenal. Shanker uses darkness in his shots exceptionally well and that adds to the overall mood of Gurgaon.
Gurgaon, the so called millennium city is called out in the film as a concrete jungle, built on blood and sweat of farmers. There is a scene where a villager looks at a township model kept on the table and asks "Paani kahan se aayega yahan Gurgaon mein?". His pain and resentment towards the brazen development is crystal clear in the tone of his voice. The film puts forth a lot that is wrong with the city, from toll plaza shootouts and Pub brawls to kidnappings and lawlessness. Everyone knows it but everyone is also used to it, almost as if, it is part of the plan. I guess what The Joker said in The Dark Knight was true, 'no one panics if things go according to plan'.
The relatively unknown cast does a fantastic job. Pankaj Tripathi (Gangs of Wasseypur, Bareilly Ki Barfi, Newton) is in top form and emotes the character brilliantly. He has very few dialogues, but he controls the silence, in way that only a true artist can. Ragini Khanna (Sasural Genda Phool) is a revelation, and it would be unfortunate if she does not get good roles from here on. Akshay Oberoi (Piku, The Test Case) and Shalini Vatsa (Peepli Live, Shahid) put in good performances as well.
Gurgaon is a wonderful film that needs to be seen and appreciated. If not for the cinematic brilliance watch it for a reality check. Today's Gurgaon could very well be the future of some other.
Note: Gurgaon, released in 2017 is a small budget wonder. Only a few people would have seen it in theatre but It is now available on Hotstar streaming platform.