Rooster in the city
A pet rooster ruffles an urban family in the comedic documentary short Tungrus
In a modest 2BHK apartment in Mumbai, a family of four with three pets—two cats, Ginger and Garlic, and an unnamed rooster. Rishi Chandna’s comedic documentary short Tungrus lands you right in the middle of the Bharde family’s peculiar housing situation, where daily inconveniences include untimely caws and unsolicited pecking. Through conversational piece-to-camera bytes, each member of the household reveals their relationship with the rooster, a nuisance they would all like to do away with, though they can’t agree on the decent way to do this. The question up for debate: Should the animal be slaughtered and eaten?
Tungrus begins its festival run next month, with a world premiere at the Visions du Réel festival in Nyon, Switzerland, followed by its North American premiere at Hot Docs in Toronto. In the 14-minute film, Chandna, who runs the production house Shoot Up Films, packs in neat, well-timed laughs, an element of suspense, and subtle takeaways on urban housing constraints, family dynamics, old-age companionship and the human-animal relationship.
The first-time film-maker heard of the Bharde family through his friend Ritika Ranjan (a co-producer on the film), who worked with their younger son, Samir. “One day over lunch, with some reluctance, he started to tell my friend how there was a rift between him and his father because of this rooster," he says. It took some convincing before the family agreed to be filmed over four days, during which Chandna managed to study both human and animal behaviour patterns. “When I met them, they had been living with the rooster for six months, and I saw first-hand that they were suffering. Even though we were shooting with a small crew, just three people, we had to respect boundaries. Overstep, and the animal can freeze; it won’t do the things it usually does."
He manges to capture the feathered “don" of the household in his element—flying into faces, feasting on chicken meat and pooping with abandon. While the rooster exhibits a well-defined personality, it is the family’s good-humoured patriarch, nicknamed “Tungrus" by his wife after Naseeruddin Shah’s character in Mandi (1983), who emerges as the film’s true protagonist. It was his impulsive purchase of the Rs10 chick—it would make a novel toy for his cats, he felt—that led to the family’s present dilemma. As each disgruntled member softens while discussing the rooster’s fate, it’s only the father who takes a definite stand. “Main toh usko maroonga hi, aur hum khayenge (I will definitely slaughter him. And I will eat him)."
This clear-headed determination to eat a former pet unsettles his sons, as it will the viewer, especially since it appears that the father might be most affected by the rooster’s absence. The two share a resigned but comfortable coexistence, with a large part of their days spent warring and canoodling. For Chandna, this can also be read as a rural narrative set in a big-city apartment. “In many ways,Tungrus is also a rural story. The father’s village upbringing informs his belief that he is well within his rights to eat the rooster; his idea of a pet is very different from his children’s, who have an urban sentimentality. This is not to say that either side can be judged."
Watch the trailer here