Director: Rahul Dahiya
Cast: Rajveer Singh, Neha Chauhan, Nitin Pandit, Vibha Tyagi
A young man stops his bike inches ahead of a railway crossing. His cellphone is buzzing. He takes it out of his pocket. Behind him is his cousin, a girl, still weeping and frightened, after being caught with a boy of lower caste. Her fate seems sealed now. He is taking her home. We know why. A few days earlier, the man’s kid sister was hacked to death by her parents for becoming an unwitting part of an MMS scandal. The knowledge of this incident makes us anticipate the worst for her right here, right now. This seemingly mundane scene acquires the burden of subtext.
A train can be heard approaching on the track inches behind them. It whizzes by, their hair flying with the violent gush of breeze. It’s so loud. We look at him. We can sense it. All he has to do is push her off the bike. Into the blur of a train.
It’s coming. I take a sharp breath.
This feels like a horror film – which it is, in so many ways. It wouldn’t even surprise me if she gets crushed in seconds. Nothing is shocking anymore. It’s not desensitization, but quite the opposite. By now, Rahul Dahiya’s baton-passing narrative has reached a stage where I feel nervous at the mere sight of a lady on screen. Especially with a man – of any age, size, stature and width – in the same frame. It is, after all, Haryana. The deepest, darkest depths of it. The part Anushka Sharma stumbles upon in NH10. The part that systematically creeps into our cozy civilized bubbles, too, evident in the love of Dibakar Banerjee’s Love Sex Aur Dhokha. The part of India we hope will disappear if we ignore it long and hard enough.
But the man simply waits. Nothing happens. The train passes. He is too preoccupied.
I’m not even sure this scene was meant to torture us. I’m a little relieved, but also increasingly worried about the next ten minutes. G Kutta Se is that kind of unrelenting, yet disturbingly clinical kick to the guts. We don’t just double over, but awkwardly keel over in slow motion. There is rarely any respite, even if nothing is actually happening, because something has already happened. An example is a folk song playing over a montage of some deathly old villagers hunched around a cellphone screen. Each of them is shaking his head disapprovingly, grinding non-existent dentures while cursing “today’s young generation”. This would look amusing if not for its depressing context: they’re eagerly taking turns “scrutinizing” the MMS of a pre-teen girl from their own locality. They are frothing at their mouths, mourning the untimely death of izzat.
The quasi-episodic narrative might appear like it is vaguely following a troubled red-blooded male named Virender (an intense Rajveer Singh), but it’s really only following what he represents: blinding patriarchy. It goes from physically exploring the deceptive urban cover of night to figuratively unraveling a stark rural culture in broad daylight. It goes from a borderline-absurd carjacking incident in which a strange girl is almost gang-raped by his pals, to the confines of his village where he arrives long after we’re introduced to its atmosphere and primary characters.
There is a casual frankness to these village surroundings that is at once unnerving and enlightening. Only, we’d much rather not know a lot of what happens behind closed doors, and yet be aware of it. Like an oblivious – but reluctantly observant – schoolboy being told to go take a leak while the “elders” finish their business.
The portion in the car is designed awkwardly, mainly to point out that Virender is a lesser evil, a ‘heroic monster’ if there were such a thing. He stops his raging friend from assaulting the woman by giving him a crude speech about a woman’s choice and sexuality. Moments later, he gets romantic with her, head in lap, even winning her over with his not-insensitive behavior. Their chemistry feels like it has been cobbled together in a hurry for a larger purpose.
The good part about Singh’s performance is that Virender remains conflicted about his role in that situation; he should feel ashamed, but he isn’t
Their conversation feels a little stilted, but I get why it exists. She is somebody else’s wife. Somebody else’s “honour” and reputation. Back at home later, he is forced to defend these outdated values and be a hypocrite; one can imagine him probably thinking about that woman’s cuckolded husband, torn between feeling sympathy and envy for those liberal city slickers. He perhaps wishes for that ‘unmanly’ life while detesting it for addressing the human in him. Even with the other men of the village, the disgraced fathers, one senses a millisecond of hesitation before they get murderous – as if scanning their immediate environment to figure out if they are reacting correctly. It isn’t their default setting.
The good part about Singh’s performance is that Virender remains conflicted about his role in that situation; he should feel ashamed, but he isn’t. He somewhat understands his sisters, and that is what makes him feel ashamed instead. His story inevitably gives way to his cousin’s (Neha Chauhan), but I couldn’t help but feel that he was perhaps as much a victim as the women he is supposed to overpower.
When he does kill, I suspect it is more a crime of passion than of honour – a complex personal feat to pull off within the boundaries of an ingloriously public landscape. He is essentially a villain struggling to come to terms with feelings of nobility and heroism. A man struggling to accept his sudden acceptance of women. A film struggling to employ the slightest bit of creative liberty. In a country struggling to acknowledge its inherently effeminate identity.
Watch the trailer here: