The Hungry (2017) [Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles 2018]

Set in current day New Delhi, The Hungry is an adaptation of Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare, Here, a second time bride is about to marry a man and bring together two powerful families. As the wedding is prepared and celebrations start, lives are changed and revenge is brought upon various family members.

Directed by Bornila Chatterjee who co-wrote with Tanaji Dasgupta and Kurban Kasam with Hindi dialogue by Ashish Verma, The Hungry is an exploration of patriarchal roles and political corruption in India. Shakespeare’s influence is heavily felt throughout the film, something fans of his work should love. Chatterjee does take this and make it her own with distinctive style and a clear direction for the film while also keeping the viewer guessing. Her work here is masterful and shows that she cares about small details. What may feel trivial at times is often anything but in The Hungry.

In the patriarch part of Tathagat Ahuja is actor Naseerudin Shah who gives a mostly cold performance fitting of his very calculating character. His work is direct and well balanced, giving him an air of importance, showing a man who demands respect with few words and in how he carries himself. Playing the bride Tulsi Joshi is the talented and stunning Tisca Chopra who is fantastic here, playing her character as an intelligent, charming mother who is ready to do just about anything for the survival of her family and herself. Her performance is one of those that catches the eye and attention of the viewer and doesn’t let them go. She’s the central character to a lot of the going-ons even when it doesn’t seem like it. Or perhaps Chopra’s performance makes it feel that way. Playing the part of Arun Kumar, a man who has more up his sleeve than he seems to, is actor Neeraj Kabi who gives a performance that is layered and nuanced while being subtle. Actors Antonia Aakeel and Karan Pandit as well as actress Sayani Gupta round out the main cast nicely with strong performances.

The film is well-shot overall with some truly visually mesmerizing scenes even in rough moments in the film, proving that when shot with talent, any scene can look beautiful. Cinematographer Nick Cooke is to thank for this, his work creates more than just another adaptation of Shakespeare’s work but one that is visually interesting to watch. The New Delhi setting brings a new touch to the story and creates a different world for Shakespeare’s work. Other aspects of the film that are well designed and have a great attention to details are the costume design by Sheetal Sharma and the art direction by Devika Dave. Both of their work shows a care for their craft and for what they put on the screen, showing talent and a vision for the material.

The Hunger is a lush film with some truly beautiful scenes and great performances that adapts Titus Andronicus well to the modern New Delhi reality. The film packs a punch at the end with its surprise which is expected for some and for others will truly take them aback. The way the film is show, the viewer can forget that the story is one that is familiar and really get into it and let the film surprise them at each turn.