Cast: Pankaj Tripathi, Akshay Oberoi, Ragini Khanna, Shalini Verma
Director: Shanker Raman
To call Gurgaon a neo-noir film would be a bit of an understatement; blacker than black, the film follows the lives of the Singh family, each intertwined in a snarl of jealousies, betrayals and resentment. Kehri Singh, the ultimate Haryanvi patriarch, formerly sharp as a dagger in the dark is now blunted by the ravages of time and alcohol. It's his children who are on their ascendant, at least daughter Preeto, who is the apple of Kehri's eye, just as his elder son Nikki is a fleck of dirt in it. Mother Karma Devi is the silently suffering, but loyal onlooker to her family's foibles, played flawlessly by Shalini Vatsa.
Nikki (Akshay Oberoi) is a boxer and wants to open his own gym, but having previously failed at several other endeavours, this plan doesn't pass much muster with his father. Meanwhile, Preet (Ragini Khanna) has completed her degree in architecture and dutifully fallen in with the rest of her fathers' wishes, be it in life or career. So naturally, Kehri decides her new office complex should be built on the site Nikki had set his sight on for the gym. Anger leads to recklessness and Nikki soon finds himself in a dire need for funds, owing a substantial amount to a no-nonsense bookie over a bad bet. And so the stage is set.
Along with Nikki, we find ourselves going deeper and deeper into the murky past of the Singhs and discover the skeletons lying at the foundations of Kehri's real estate empire. While the story itself may not be original, it's executed beautifully. Pankaj Tripathi is of course uniformly excellent as Kehri but is also supported by a stellar supporting cast, each of whom manages to hold their own. Also, kudos to them all for having picked up the Haryanvi dialect for the film and speaking it so naturally.Image: Official poster of Gurgaon
Mention also must be made of the Singh's inner circle. Arjun Fauzdar as Rajvir, Nikki's minion, and Chintu, Nikki and Preet's hapless younger brother, are simultaneously servile and swollen-headed and provide some much-needed comic relief in the midst of all the pathos while Aamir Bashir, Kehri's confidante and oldest friend, is a glowering, but ultimately moral force. In any case, the Singhs are not very nice people to know.
The family itself is a metaphor for the urbanised rural sprawl that is Gurgaon. Like the newly minted city, the Singhs were farmers not too long ago, before their fields came in the notice of developers and real estate barons. A sudden inflow of funds and the transformation of the molehill into skyscrapers left the previously hardworking farming community with too much time and money on their hands; excess and chaos followed.
Director Shanker Raman grew up in the NCR region and it shows. Every frame of the film fabulously captures a different facet of Gurgaon, with nary a wasted shot. From the glittering facade of towering steel and glass buildings to the scarred and pitted roads that wind between them, from the highly westernised nightclubs with booming English music to the thet Jat language and attitudes that space within and outside them, every nuance of the city is presented in a wholly uncompromising light. There are fast foreign cars and long jams at toll booths, there's foreign liquor juxtaposed against ghee ke ladoos and paranthas and everyone is some baap ka beta. While it all does lead to some comedy, it also causes conflict, and the easy availability of guns probably doesn't help, at least if you're at the wrong end of the barrel.