This exceptionally creepy piece of storytelling makes you feel bitter and unsafe, but in the right way
Director: Jyoti Kapur Das
Cast: Tisca Chopra, Rasika Dugal, Adil Hussain, Devesh Ranjan, Sumit Gulati
Rating: 3.5 stars
Chutney, a short film directed by Jyoti Kapur Das, is an exceptionally creepy piece of storytelling – both, by the filmmaker, and the actress within her film, a virtually unrecognizable Tisca Chopra. Chutney is one of those unsettling mood pieces where one can sense the “middle India,” the clandestine small town-ness within the big cities – the decay, infamy and backbiting whispers within the walls of a restless Delhi locality.
And all this through just a strange, and seemingly harmless, conversation between two fine performers, both of whom were seen together in Anup Singh’s Qissa: Chopra (also the co-writer), who plays a timid housewife visibly growing in nature and stature as she circles her prey, Rasika Dugal, who plays her philandering husband’s (Adil Hussain; the poster-man of infidelity) younger mistress.
Chutney, a short film directed by Jyoti Kapur Das, is an exceptionally creepy piece of storytelling – both, by the filmmaker, and the actress within her film, a virtually unrecognizable Tisca Chopra.
The film opens with a regular Model Town garden party – not that I’ve ever been to any, but this just looks authentic – with the men being brash with meat and whisky in one corner, and the ‘ladies’ gossiping discreetly in another. A lot is established here with darting eyes and surreptitious glances: that, possibly, Chopra’s under-confident character isn’t as naïve as she lets on, and that this isn’t the first time she will invite one of her ‘competitors’ home for a friendly chat over pakoras.
Dugal’s wide-eyed curiosity makes you wonder if she, too, is simply indulging the older woman, or if she’s genuinely spooked: either by the “story” she is fed, the delicious chutney she consumes (thanks to a Tim Burton-ish twist), or by the sheer lengths a suppressed wife can resort to in order to hide her territoriality.
Ambiguity is everything and nothing here, a narrative trait that a lot of large-scale thrillers and suspense dramas seem to have forgotten over the years. For instance, more is established, or maybe more is felt and imagined, by the presence of a wordless, disgruntled and horribly perverse servant, played by Sumit Gulati – whose similarly shifty role as the killer in Talvar only adds to the morbidity of this current household.
It’s this texture of a certain kind of milieu that the director doesn’t necessarily need to be technically correct about, as much as integrate it as an atmospheric device into a universe naturally steeped in hyperbole. And Ms. Kapur Das understands that; the language, accents and setting is only as important as you want it to be – it’s the efficiency in context of the desired tone that matters more. Here, the specifics don’t matter much; it just feels right, and so very wrong for an onlooker.
That Chutney makes you rewind a bit to further recognize your reading of its faces is perhaps its most appropriate victory.
I felt a little unnerved by all the things that were being thought of by the characters, not the things they were saying. That Chutney makes you rewind a bit to further recognize your reading of its faces is perhaps its most appropriate victory. And even then, it feels bitter – and unsafe. In the right way, if that’s a thing.