Arunoday (Sunrise): A gritty and hard-hitting thriller by Partho Sen-Gupta

For a film titled Sunrise, there is hardly a scene in it where you get to see some actual sunlight. When it does appear finally, you are not sure if it’s real or a dream. Also, there is a nightclub named ‘Paradise’, but it actually looks like a gateway to hell. In fact, every location in the film looks like it belongs in hell: dark (with constant power cuts), filthy and flooded streets as a result of incessant rains.

Adil Hussain plays Joshi, a grief-stricken cop looking for an elusive shadowy figure who may have been behind the disappearance of his daughter – a fact which the director takes a long time to reveal. Until then, he takes us on several drives and walks with Joshi and gives us a sense of his state of mind, which is on the verge of losing touch with reality. His wife Leela (played by Tannishtha Chatterjee) has become delusional; she is under the notion that her daughter is still with them. Hussain and Chatterjee are in fine form as always.

In the hope of finding some answers, Joshi keeps chasing shadows – literally – through the rain-drenched Mumbai streets every night. And it’s not quite clear which of these situations are actually happening and which are not. His mind plays tricks on him occasionally. Also quite baffling is the structure of the narrative: some sequences seem repetitive and I wasn’t sure if a particular moment has already happened or if it is actually happening in the end. It doesn’t take very long for us to figure out there is a child sex racket behind all this.

The aforementioned nightclub employs underage girls for the viewing pleasure of lecherous old men. We get a peek into the sad and pitiful lives of these girls, who are locked up inside a dingy apartment by their Madame – a despicable, foul-mouthed woman who has mastered the art of dealing with nosy cops. The girls take comfort in the company of each other, anxiously waiting for someone to rescue them. These scenes are heart-breaking. Meanwhile, Joshi crosses paths with a teenage boy – a victim of domestic violence.

The film’s slow pace may frustrate some, and it is totally understandable. But patient viewers will see that there is much to admire here with regard to the filmmaking. The film’s neo-noir atmosphere contains few traces of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Michael Mann’s Collateral. And what’s really admirable about it is that the director doesn’t resort to spoon-feeding and instead conveys everything through visuals and tiny details. And it helps that the runtime is only 85 minutes.

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