BY ANUJ RADIA

In The Shadows (Gali Guleiyan) commences with a quote by William S Boroughs stating, “There are no innocent bystanders… What are they doing in the first place?” This one simple quote is what makes us ponder throughout the film.

In the walled city of Old Delhi, a reclusive shopkeeper Khuddoos (Manoj Bajpayee) spends his days obsessively watching people through hidden closed-circuit cameras. When he overhears a boy – Idu – being beaten by a man (Neeraj Kabi), he begins to frantically search for the child.

As he becomes lost in the labyrinthine alleys of the city, his grasp on reality falters, until he eventually stumbles across a shocking truth about a father and an abused son.

Dipesh Jain’s feature film debut is a superbly dark psychological thriller that expertly explores the roots of paranoia. It is interesting how the mystery is not actually conveyed yet the viewers can join the dots and work it out. 

Plus, Jain successfully encapsulates the raw and organic atmosphere of Old Delhi, through the camerawork.

For instance, the crabbing/sideways shot of when Khuddoos goes in and out of the alleyways gives a sense of entrapment and bewilderment. It’s like we are living the central protagonist’s life. There is a solid visceral feel.

Moreover, the beginning and closing shots, too, are significant. We see a bird’s eye view of the slum area. As the camera ascends, the frame is filled with several roofs of hovels.

This, to a certain degree, alluded to the title ‘In The Shadows’ – it demonstrates that there are several stories (like that of Khuddoos) which go unnoticed – mirroring a dialogue in the film, “This is a maze you can’t get out of.”

As such, the story and concept are intriguing. Dipesh pens a psychological thriller which attempts to be quite different. There is a similar vibe which we experienced in films like The Machinist and Peeping Tom.

Besides the camerawork and narrative, Manoj Bajpayee’s performance is what rides the film. Bajpayee does not enact the part, he lives it. Manoj is consistent throughout the film, not once does he snap out of the character. Plus, to portray such an abstract and enigmatic character is not an easy task.

In addition to Bajpayee, the movie is Au fait with some decent performances by Neeraj Kabi and Shahana Goswami.

One of Neeraj’s last performances was in Talvar – a role which exhibited various dark shades. In this movie, he plays another darkish character.

His role can be described as a chauvinist and Kabi makes the audience detest him. But his performance does not reek of evil. The negativity is underplayed and that is what works.

Shahana Goswami delivers her part well as Saira (the wife of Neeraj Kabi’s character). We know that she is an exceptional actor and she proves it yet again in this film. Ranvir Shorey, who plays Ganeshi, a friend of Khuddoos, is okay. He fits the bill.

There are a lot of positives with In The Shadows. But despite having a modest length of two hours, I felt the film dragged slightly in the second-half. It would have been better if the second-half was tighter. But nonetheless, the viewer’s attention is captured well.

On the whole, In The Shadows (Gali Guleiyan) is a sincere and commendable effort by Dipesh Jain. The movie is not solely a work of cinema, but it is a metaphor for life and how we (at certain points) try to get out of a rut.

For Indian cinema, this is definitely unique and therefore, it deserves a watch!

In The Shadows (Gali Guleiyan) runs as part of the 9th edition of the Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival, which runs at 15 cinemas across London, Birmingham and Manchester, from 21st June to 1st July, with 27 films.

These include features and short films, in competition. It is the largest South Asian film festival in Europe. Buy your tickets via this website, at respective cinema box offices: http://londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk/

 

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