Saturday, July 15, 2017

G Kutta Se: Review

When Rahul Dahiya’s film played at the 2015 Mumbai Film Festival, it was called G – A Wanton Heart. For its theatrical release, the makers have swapped that title for G Kutta Se. Though it’s weird to say out loud—I mumbled it at the ticket counter—I like the terse honesty of this better than the Shakespearean flourish of “wanton”. A film about crude, violent characters deserves a crude, violent title.

The film, set in interior Haryana, deals in tremendous violence, most of it directed towards, or undertaken on behalf of, women. This may sound similar to 2015’s NH10, in which Anushka Sharma was pursued by murderous Haryanvi thugs, but there are a couple of significant differences. NH10 was a genre film, albeit one grounded in reality: it had a setup, conflict, crisis, catharsis. G Kutta Se is no thriller; it’s a nightmare that won’t let up, at times unfolding like a dramatization of the harrowing accounts in Nakul Singh Sawhney’s documentary on khap panchayats, Izzatnagari Ki Asabhya Betiyan.

It takes a while for the film to play its most intriguing card. In the first of three intersecting stories, a young woman, Preeti, elopes with her husband’s driver, only to find herself kidnapped by three men on the highway. She’s nearly raped in the back seat by one of them before their leader, Virender, intervenes. He sits next to Preeti, calms her down, talks to her, and, before you know it, she’s smiling. A couple of scenes later, they hug, and he gets her phone number.

While I have a problem with the speed of Preeti’s recovery and the idea that she’d be friendly with her kidnapper a couple of minutes after being assaulted, there’s a theme that this scene triggers. Desire, the film seems to argue, will spring up, unbidden, even in the most women-unfriendly environments imaginable. We see this repeated in the other stories as well. A young girl, Diksha, spies on a group of boys bathing in a pond, and when one leads her away to make a lewd video, she’s too curious to protest. Her older cousin, Kiran, is in a secret relationship with a local lad, and is shown as eager to initiate a physical relationship with him, going to the extent of risking her reputation and well-being.

These small grasps at desire aside, women in G Kutta Se are denied agency so consistently that even relatively minor transgressions begin to assume significance, like an unwilling Diksha being forced to sing by her father, or Kiran’s boyfriend cussing at her for refusing to have sex. The film is shot, documentary-style, by Sachin Kabir and Alok Shrivastav: the roving camera and the starkness of the surroundings match the sordidness of speech and subject matter. The few visual flourishes included – a woman’s hair blown a passing train, a spectacular burning Raavan – are well judged, but there’s little beauty here, or mercy.

Dahiya, who also wrote the film, occasionally reaches for metaphors that don’t quite make sense, like the crosscutting of a deliberate murder with the inadvertent killing of a dog. Yet, for the most part, this is a sharp, pitiless look at a society governed by feudal minds overly concerned with women’s honour while utterly dismissive of their rights. G Kutta Se might seem violent and unsubtle. Then again, so might India.

This review appeared in Mint.

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