Mumbai, 15 Oct 2017 8:00 IST
Updated: 17 May 2018 16:04 IST
This Indian adaptation of William Shakespeare’s early play The Lamentable Tragedy of Titus Andronicus will satisfy fans of the Netflix series, Game Of Thrones.
The Bard gets transported to India in this updated retelling of Titus Andronicus. It’s a lesser known play of Shakespeare and the advantage for the filmmakers is that the audience will not walk in with preconceived notions like with Hamlet or Romeo And Juliet. However, the gory subject and dark characters take some getting used to.
The Hungry, directed by Bornila Chatterjee, opens with a New Year’s Eve party. Ankur (Suraj Sharma) has to close an important business deal with a minister that night. His mother Tulsi Joshi (Tisca Chopra) and Tathagat Ahuja (Naseeruddin Shah) are business partners. Tulsi has taken over her late father’s role. It is supposed to be a celebratory night, but it ends in an apparent suicide — Ankur’s.
The film moves to two years later when Tulsi is preparing for her upcoming marriage to the much-younger Sunny (Arjun Gupta), Tathagat’s son. A lavish party and wedding are planned and the two important business families are also merging together.
At a luncheon, the groom is anxious and jumpy (he just snorted cocaine moments ago) while the bride is coy and mysterious. Sunny’s family, his sister Loveleen (also Ankur’s ex-girlfriend) and Tathagat don’t seem entirely convinced with the marriage.
They have reason to be worried. The calculating Tulsi has been plotting revenge this whole time with the help of Tathagat’s right-hand man, Arun Kumar. She doesn’t believe her son committed suicide and knows Tathagat had a hand in it somehow. But as the saying goes, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
Tulsi’s other son Chirag (Antonio Aakeel) sulkily comes to upend his mother’s wedding day. Tulsi tries to warn him to return home, but he pays her no heed. At the sangeet party that night, as Tulsi attempts to kill off Sunny, Chirag acts out, setting off a chain of events that leaves everyone at the losing end.
The Hungry has two fascinating characters in the serene Tulsi and the ruthless Tathagat, who loves to cook, as heads of their families who don’t mind getting their hands dirty to maintain power and money. Their inner desire for ruthlessness lays everyone around them to waste.
The actors who play them, Tisca Chopra and Naseeruddin Shah, are absolutely on the mark. You can’t take your eyes off them in their eventual gory showdown. The other younger actors have far to go to match up to them, though Suraj Sharma has a memorable cameo as the favoured son, Ankur, whose suicide isn’t what it seems. I wish there were more of Neeraj Kabi as the power-hungry Arun who plays both sides of the game.
The film’s cinematography by Nick Cooke incorporates the moody exteriors of winter in northern India and the production design by Aradhana Seth is classy and elegant. The contrast of the white, pristine interiors marred by trails of blood at various points in the films is especially striking.
Be that as it may, The Hungry’s larger arc of corruption and murder, through business dealings, seems rather confusing. The characters refuse to talk to one another, keeping things close to their own vests instead. There were several times during the film a conversation could have solved many problems for them. I understand what writers Bornila Chatterjee, Kurban Kassam and Tanaji Dasgupta were attempting to do, but the result doesn’t seem to register on screen.
Overall, though messy, this adaptation of Titus Andronicus is worth perusing. And for fans of Games Of Thrones, you will even get to see a version of the Red Wedding.
The Hungry was screened at the 19th MAMI Mumbai Film Festival on 14 October 2017. The film is co-produced by Cinestaan Film Company, a sister company of Cinestaan Digital Private Limited, which runs this website.
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