Gurgaon, a neo-noir Harayanvi drama revolving around a crooked real-estate family’s dark phase, releases in cinemas this Friday. This is largely an independent film, produced by JAR Pictures and directed by National Award-winning cinematographer, Shanker Raman. The film stars Pankaj Tripathi, TV actress Ragini Khanna, Akshay Oberoi, Aamir Bashir, Ashish Verma and Shalini Vatsa.
Gurgaon had started production back in 2012 and was even selected at the NFDC Film Bazaar in 2015 as part of the Work-In-Progress Lab. Raman, an FTII graduate, makes his directorial debut with Gurgaon. He has shot 6 feature-length Indian films as a cinematographer – including his first, Frozen, which won the national award ten years ago. Among his more recent credits are the John Abraham action drama, Rocky Handsome, and the intriguing 2015 indie, Fireflies. Patang, a lovely documentary on the kite-flying season in Ahmedabad, made by late director Prashant Bhargava, was also shot by Raman. He even shot and co-wrote Aamir Bashir’s near-silent Kashmir drama, Harud, as well as the popular satire, Peepli Live.
The Gurgaon trailer depicts a mood piece. Tripathi, the cold-blooded patriarch and real-estate baron named Kehri Singh, is shown negotiating with the kidnappers of his daughter, his “good-luck” charm named Preet (Rahini Khanna). The trailer starts with a shot from this abduction, where Srinivas Sunderrajan (indie filmmaker, and now actor), a clearly inexperienced hired thug, tries to restrain a struggling Preet. Events move on to Kehri Singh and his younger son Nikki (Akshay Oberoi), who seems to be the black sheep of a remorseless family, consistently on the wrong side of the law. One suspects that this jealous son has much to do with the abduction going wrong – an event that throws Kehri and the rest into a sequence of slow-burning chaos.
Like its Delhi counterpart, Titli, Gurgaon thrives on our ability to digest the bloody workings of a shadowy system that operates on bikes, in bungalows and bylanes of a notoriously dangerous “developing” area. The withering geography plays one of the prime characters of such films, and Raman’s expertise in photography will come to the fore. He will find a gritty balance between storytelling and allegedly unglamorous imagery.
Gurgaon had its world premiere recently at the 1st International Film Festival and Awards in Macao, while filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap have named it in their list of favorite films (of 2016) from around the world. Gurgaon has a limited release compared to Jab Harry Met Sejal, which also releases this week. It is expected to be lapped up by cinema enthusiasts and film students looking for a change from regular mainstream Bollywood fare.