Thursday, April 1, 2021

The Knot (Uljhan) Review: A Subtle, Realistic Look At Class And A Changing India

Saloni Batra	...	Geeta Mathur Nehpal Gautam	Nehpal Gautam	...	Manoj Vikas Kumar	Vikas Kumar	...	Shirish Mathur

Release date: March 31, 2021
Running time: 107 minutes
Written and Directed By: Ashish Pant
Starring: Vikas Kumar, Saloni Batra, Nehpal Gautam

Shirish and Geeta, an upper middle class Indian couple, accidently run over someone. Their differing reactions to the consequences of the accident reveal fissures in their relationship and put their values and beliefs to the test. The Knot explores class conflict, materialism, and guilt. It asks whether high walls and locked gates can banish inequality and class structure, or whether the complicity of the middle class infects our most intimate relationships.

The Knot (Uljhan) Movie Still
The Knot starts with a great sense of claustrophobia, orienting anyone that has never driven in India with the sense of just how close everything is.  It has you in the driver's seat navigating a crowded city street while humanity swirls around you.  This also gives you a sense of the bubble that Shirish and Geeta, who are middle class, live in.  They spend their lives away from the masses in their gated house or in their private car.  But when the inevitable happens, the film shows the differences in attitude and values between Shirish and Geeta.  I liked seeing their different reactions to the event, and how they tried to come to terms with and move past it.  Shirish is the more practical one, but that is also because of other aspects going on in his life.  Geeta is the more nurturing one, but she can also be cold and practical when needed.  And Shirish and Geeta are expertly portrayed by Kumar and Batra.  The two have a natural chemistry and also an ease on screen.  

The attention to detail in The Knot is impressive.  The movie was filmed in Lucknow, giving it a sense of authenticity.  And writer / director Ashish Pant even wrote the film in several dialects depending on the character's station in life.  Those that were in the lower class spoke with a more slang dialect, while those at the upper echelons of Government spoke in perfect Hindi.  It is a subtle detail, but definitely an impressive one that gives this whole film a sense of authenticity.  And this movie is all about small details like this.  The film has so many subtle hints and suggestions about the Indian class structure that you will have to watch it a few times to catch them all.  For example, Shirish and Geeta live in a modest, nice house that Shirish is trying to leave for a wider open, safer locale.  But when their driver enters the house for the first time, he is in awe of how large it is.  This subtle sense of perspective really lets you get to know the various characters and the overall societal hierarchy of India.

The Knot is a slow one that explores many different topics in modern Indian society.  The film looks at the class structure, the treatment of people based on their station, and how those above treat those below them.  These subtle topics are fascinating to watch.  I was especially interested to see Shirish's treatment of those that are below him.  He is sometimes cold or impatient and demanding with them, yet fails to recognize the disappointment and frustration he feels when the same treatment comes from above him.  And the film also explores an India that is modernizing and trying to crack down on corruption and fraud, while still recognizing that it exists and is a regular way of doing business.  Although less overt, it still shows exchanging favors to try and get things done, and a need to give gifts and bribes to try and rise in your station.  

The Knot is a reserved film that does not ramp up the drama until the end.  Even the scenes that should be dramatic are more muted, which is a nice touch as it seems to adhere more to real life.  The drama isn't overdone and the characters react naturally to the various issues and stimuli that they encounter.  And even towards the more climactic end, the characters still feel like real people dealing with a horrible situation.

The Knot explores class structure, hierarchy, and a changing India through an unfortunate accident and the differing attitudes of its well realized characters.

Watch it.

Directed by  Ashish Pant	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Ashish Pant	Cast
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The Knot is available on virtual cinema on March 31, 2021.  For tickets, click here.

Also, check out our interview with writer and director Ashish Pant!

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