TUNGRUS: THE CHICKEN FROM HELL

 

Director: Rishi Chandana

Year: 2017

Duration: 14 mins

Genre: Short/Documentary

Tungrus: The Chicken from Hell’ was screened at the 2019 Edition of Cineville -the Annual Film Festival (CAFF’19) organized by Filmtantra - the Film Appreciation and Filmmaking Society of Shaheed Bhagat Singh College. It was the most memorable movie of the two-day long film festival with people raving about the hilarity of the situation depicted in the documentary.

When one mentions a rooster, your mind concocts the image of a meek and harmless biological entity whose sole purpose on this universe is to satisfy our taste buds. Well, you might want to reconsider that because the central character of the short film ‘Tungrus’ by Rishi Chandna is not about the regular ‘rooster next door’, instead he is a rather domineering one.

‘Tungrus’ is a hilarious account of the Bharde family’s experience of having a pet rooster at their home an interesting choice in pets, leaves one wondering about the humans residing in this house. It is a layered story that for me succeeds at every possible level of analysis. ‘Tungrus and The Chicken from Hell’ qualified for the Oscars 2020 in the short film category, owing to its quirky concept and brilliant depiction of emotions and instincts, human or non-human.

The rooster featured in the film is the ‘Boss’ of the household, he defecates wherever and whenever he wants, crows at odd hours, bullies the two domesticated cats Ginger and Garlic and even wakes up his master in the middle of his afternoon nap (very ‘cocky'). Even though the master claims to be an extraordinarily deep sleeper perturbing him is not much of a task for this troublesome pet. As you start wondering how this bird landed up in this congested apartment, the head of the family begins to describe the event of purchasing him six months ago from a roadside stall as a toy for his cats for just rupees ten, because he did not anticipate the amount of mischief the chicken would create or the status he would acquire within the Bharde residence. The sons seem to be unimpressed by their father’s choice of pet.

Surprisingly enough, our rooster thoroughly enjoys the taste of his fellow roosters and is a happy non-vegetarian. The audience is hardly given time to recover from such antics that the next moment the head of the family expresses his consideration to kill and subsequently eat his beloved pet in order to start a new life away from the rogue chicken whom he previously described as ‘a part of the family’. That escalated quickly didn’t it? The documentary ponders over the question of whether the chicken deserves a place in the family or on their dinner table.

The director offers interesting and emotive close ups of the characters present and the dim lighting adds subtlety to the scenes. The steady camera frames used present the story in a raw and straightforward manner. The clever editing evokes uneasiness within the viewers mind and thoroughly succeeded in engaging me as a viewer. It is impressive to see how well the director dabbles with the camera in this cramped apartment and the low angle shots of planes flying past the building that hosts the apartment accompany the rooster’s annoyance very well.

At the outset, Tungrus seems to be a comical representation of a one of a kind rooster with an eccentric  master, but it also explores the cramped human soul of the people residing in modern sub-urban areas. It is interesting to watch the family play around with the moral predicament of killing the rooster or not. Especially in our time when tolerating even the slightest of differences becomes unbearable for many people due to their prejudices it acts as an apt metaphor. Mr.Bhadre, compared to his wife and sons, is pretty straightforward about his plans of having a hearty meal and describes it as the inevitable destiny of the bird as the family squabbles about its fate.

‘Tungrus’ is an amusing watch with equal parts humor, hostility and contemplation. It will make you reconsider your worldview of thinking of people in the binary of ‘Us' and ‘Them’ but not in the usual bland way and simultaneously have you wondering about the fate of the rooster. Will it be served by the masters or served to the masters?

-written by Akshit Sardana