Review: Guras (2023) is a slow-burning, reflective tale of childhood ambitions

Guras captivates audiences with its slow-paced storytelling and stunning visuals.

Guras 2023 movie

Saurav Rai’s sophomore film, Guras, creates a fictional realm that relies more on visual storytelling and minimalistic art and immerses the audience in a mesmerizing world of colorful characters and muted emotions. The depth of Rai’s storytelling lies in the intricate web of emotions and choices he weaves for his characters. Every character, regardless of their role in the story, is given careful attention and development. Each decision made by them serves as a mirror, compelling the audience to delve into their own introspection and contemplate the consequences of their own actions.

The story of the film is set in a hilly tea plantation area where life follows a routine pattern and is told from the perspective of a nine-year-old titular character who navigates the challenges and complexities of living in this serene yet demanding environment. On a fateful night, her cherished pet dog, Tinkle, mysteriously vanishes. The threat of a leopard prowling at night could be the key to Tinkle’s disappearance. At the same time, it is speculated that Tinkle may have been abducted by someone from the nearby community. However, the young girl’s family has other concerns because the harvest of cardamom is not progressing as expected, and they are fighting for their survival. Guras is left to search on her own for her canine friend, but in this enchanted country of tea plantations, helpful counsel can be found in unexpected places. As she runs across supernatural occurrences along the way that demolishes her naive view of reality, she embarks on an ethereal journey through excruciating loss that demonstrates the various ways that children and adults grieve.

Guras film 2023

The director built his film around that understated display of nature, noting the minute particulars of everyday life with such clarity, soulfulness, and sensitivity that they develop a cumulative emotional power. There is a simplicity in the treatment of the film that helps the director establish sincerity and human connection. By empathizing with the choices and decisions of the characters, the filmmaker creates an avenue for viewers to understand the value of minimalism in conveying the complexities of life. This relatability encourages affinity and understanding while bringing to mind the beauty and importance of everyday occurrences. It is also disarming in its lack of cynicism and the work of an experienced filmmaker who has given these issues serious thought.

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Guras has an innocent charm and the titular character grounds the film with her conviction and wisdom. As she searches tirelessly for the missing dog, they are forced to confront the harsh truth that not everything in life can be easily explained or resolved. This experience serves as a wake-up call, teaching her about the challenges and uncertainties that are an inevitable part of growing up. As the film nears its surprising conclusion, it comes close to being a stunning piece of work that leaves audiences in awe with its unexpected twist. Rai is advocating reality, not naive optimism because he believes that the sooner we realize the harsh practicalities of the world, the better equipped we will be to navigate through them and adapt ourselves accordingly.

Further, the prologue sets the stage for the story without providing important background information or introducing key characters. It often serves as a teaser, creating anticipation and drawing viewers into the narrative. There aren’t many scenes that really highlight the film’s purposefully sluggish texture, which can make it feel slight at times. The final shot of the film, Guras, where we observe the protagonist walking silently, speaks volumes of the drastic fate that awaits her. This stunning and genuinely moving crescendo appears to have been born from the realization that no film, let alone one this restrained, could contain such highly compressed drama and internality. Rai does not try to wrap everything up too neatly and does not reveal too much about the protagonist too early.

To narrate the tale of Guras visually, long takes and a leisurely pace are used for an immersive experience. The cinematography by Subal KR effectively sets the mood and tone of each scene. Whereas, the editing creates a cohesive and engaging narrative flow. The long periods of silence and restraint serve as an important device to keep the audience interested. It seeks to instill a sense of eagerness and total immersion in the story. However, by enabling individuals to completely take in and reflect upon the images and feelings displayed on screen, these purposeful choices also heighten the audience’s engagement and increase their investment in the tale being delivered by generating a sense of expectation and building inquisitiveness. It’s often useful to hold an extended final shot on a character’s face to highlight whatever emotions and thoughts are going through their heads and keep them resonating through the end credits and even after. Rai ends his eloquent and emotionally rich drama with such a shot, held tight on the extraordinarily expressive face of Tulsi Khawas. As she treads her way through the hilly terrain, reflecting on the blessings and perhaps also the regrets of his life with the same spirit of openness and acceptance, embracing the sadness as much as the joy. Does she find solace and meaning in every step she will take in the future? It is a question that will linger in our minds, unanswered for now. 

Guras film

The portrayal of the rural landscape of the hilly tea gardens and their sprawling surroundings is refreshing, capturing the village’s unique blend of tradition and modernity. Rai skillfully avoids falling into clichés, presenting a nuanced and authentic depiction of life tucked away from the bustle of urbanity. The towering mountains and lush forests not only enhance the visual appeal of the film but also serve as powerful symbols of grandeur and untamed nature. These natural elements evoke a sense of wonderment, creating a captivating backdrop that deepens the audience’s connection to the village as the filmmaker intricately weaves together the lives of its inhabitants, highlighting their struggles, joys, and aspirations. 

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The sound design by Ankita Purkayasta plays an immersive role in the film, creating a sense of depth and atmosphere. It enhances the overall cinematic experience by seamlessly blending various audio elements such as dialogue, music, and ambient sounds. The carefully crafted soundscapes transport the audience into the world of the film, evoking emotions and enhancing storytelling in a way that visuals alone cannot achieve. 

Guras captivates audiences with its slow-paced storytelling and stunning visuals. Though the film has a subdued tone, its thought-provoking narrative and powerful performances leave a lasting impact, making it a deserving recipient of the special mention award at the recently held prestigious Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

Guras 2023 movie
Review: Guras (2023) is a slow-burning, reflective tale of childhood ambitions
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Dipankar Sarkar

Dipankar Sarkar is a film critic, regularly contributing reviews, interviews, and essays to various publications all over the world like Upperstall.com and Vaguevisages.com. He was one of the panelists for the selection of world cinema at the 27th International Film Festival of Kerala in 2022. He is a Research Fellowship from the NFAI, Pune India. As a freelancer, he frequently contributes to various Indian publications on cinema-related topics.

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