Tungrus review: Rishi Chandna's documentary short chronicles our relationship with pets and food
Rishi Chandna's Tungrus is a portrait of a family and the bewildering ways of love
Three minutes into Tungrus, Mr Bharde suddenly goes quiet while talking about his pet chicken’s eating habits. He lowers his voice a little and explains that the chicken knows that they are talking about it. It is one of the many queerly endearing and funny moments in this quirky and clever debut effort. Director Rishi Chandna crafts a confounding tale of an outsider whose entry into a household sets the rooster among the cats, eliciting confusion, befuddlement, tenderness and terror from its human and feline inhabitants. Tungrus is many things: a chronicle of our relationship with pets and food, our relationship with the city and the world at large. But perhaps most poignantly, this documentary is the portrait of a family and the bewildering ways of love.
One fine day, Mr Bharde decided to bring a fledgling chick into his Santacruz flat and raise it along with the cats. Soon, he acquired a new nickname, Tungrus — given to him by his wife for his habit of chasing the rooster around the house to stop it from crowing arbitrarily — and unleashed terror and admiration of a unique variety upon his family. The rooster “has a mind of its own” and “does what he pleases”. It irritates the younger son and flummoxes the elder one. Now that it’s all grown up, the rooster appears to have taken over the house.
Mr Bharde seems to love the rooster. But that won’t stop him from eating it. When the time comes, he believes it is the bird’s fate to be devoured. He feels it’s better than letting anyone else eat him up. He’s no cat, nor a dog! Its eventual fate is to turn into food. Chandna spends ample time trying to understand what the other members of the family think of Mr Bharde’s plan. He builds a complex architecture of feeling from their reactions to the fate of a bird that wantonly shits, flies, crows and pecks around the house. At the end of the day, the rooster is an outsider, a queer entry into the normative world of pets. Quite like the housemaid, who receives the least screen-time as a talking head in the film. So, as it struts and frets its hour upon the stage, pampered far more than the average rooster, as Mr Bharde puts it, its exit is destined to leave a trail of blood and bone, its essence swallowed up like an outsider is by the megacity.
Creditably, Chandna lets the protagonists and the story take centre stage. But he cannot resist lodging multiple shots of planes flying above the lonesome apartment buildings. The rooster is framed against the apartment complexes more than once, locating him within one cage after another, even as he swaggers around the house with elan. Chandna navigates space within the house admirably well for a film that dwells upon the idea of spaces at length. He uses clever editing to heighten the sense of unease and a gently twisted reality. In doing so, he successfully conveys the complexity of emotions engendered by the rooster’s presence in the house. The short 12-minute runtime, the smart editing and Mr Bharde’s unfiltered talk go a long way towards momentarily making us a part of this family.
Yet, we must remain outsiders, curiously looking in, drawing laughs and pleasure from the rooster’s impact on the family, before moving on to the next story and film on our watchlists. Mr Bharde may or may not choose to slaughter and eat the rooster. But that’s perhaps missing the point. We watch the film because he brought it home in the first place. That he lodged it tenderly in the crook of his arm as it slowly fell asleep. That everyone in the family will miss it, even if for a day or two. That for a short duration, this outsider is one of them. Just like us.
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