‘A Death In The Gunj’ Shows How Indian Families Bully Their Own Children

Posted by Sneha Banerjee in Culture-Vulture, Society
June 12, 2017

In a particular scene in “A Death in the Gunj”, Bonnie tells her husband Nandu about how she felt about Vikram’s harsh and boisterous behaviour towards Shuttu over a smoke. She clearly gets snubbed by her husband, who shows no interest in criticising his bully friend, who belongs to a well-to-do family. This is after Vikram badly manhandles the physically lean Shuttu over a fun game of kabaddi, as he was ashamed to lose to the weakly-built Shuttu. The implications of the wrong doings of these so-called ‘ well-to-do’ folks are evident in the film’s climax.

The ignorance of the well-dressed and English-speaking family members of this film, set in the 70s, and their constant reluctance to correct the wrongs among them are things seen very often even in the families today. Even today, families tend to cover-up and ignore the blatant rudeness and reckless behaviour of their family members at social gatherings. Though large family gatherings have come down in numbers today, the reasons for this ignorance remain the same. Fear of cutting family ties, never-ending gratitude towards our elders, and at times, just the offending individual’s shining career and wealth act as shields to cover their wrongdoings and insensitive commentary.

Indian families at family gatherings, over drinks and cocktails and even while playing with electronic gadgets, can get harsh with their own family members. Comparing the kids over exam scores and vanity, and even personal lifestyles, could end up demotivating the weaker and not-so-superbly talented kids in the family.

A particular scene in the movie left me extremely angry. When Tanuja’s character, who till then seemed to be comparatively well-adjusted among the others in the movie, could not control herself from revealing everything that Shuttu’s mother had written to her in a rather mournful letter. She never thought twice before reacting and revealing details that she could have concealed about the young Shuttu. Elders, who are generally asked for advice and counselling during testing times, are bound to keep certain secrets to themselves and deal with matters with a certain level of maturity.

When elders don’t maintain secrecy and rationality in their thoughts, and lose control of their tongues over drinks or alarming situations (in this case, a kid going missing) – this is when the younger army of people in the family should lead the way.

When There Is A Shuttu In Your Family

Thankfully, most of the folks I know have developed the ability and thick skin to ward off such negativity that exists within social circles. But our society also has members like Shuttu in this film, who need a little more care, a touch of sensitivity. Shuttu (and many like him) craves for the much-needed pat on his back for his talents – his kabaddi and chess skills in this case. He might be sensitive to the bullying and general family banter, because deep inside, he knows his personal shortcomings. He does not need your pity or money, but that little attention and involvement in regular discussions.

We cannot ignore and demotivate those not-so-brilliant and self-sufficient kids of our family and discuss their weaknesses over a cup of tea. It’s time that families learn to object to the snide and objectionable behaviour of their own kith and kin. A family needs to understand, accept and nurture both the strong and the weak personalities in their group.

Our families should thank Konkona Sen Sharma once they realise the message in this beautifully crafted movie.