Fresh from scooping the Black Tulip award at Amsterdam’s Imagine film festival, director Partho Sen-Gupta brings Sunrise to Tribeca. This vivid and taut thriller stars Adil Hussain (Life of Pi) as Inspector Joshi of Mubai’s Child Protection Unit. Tasked with busting a child trafficking ring as part of an investigation with potential links to the abduction of his own daughter years previously, Joshi must face both the city’s seedy underbelly and the unresolved torment that continues to haunt him and his wife Leela (Tannishita Chatterjee, Brick Lane).
As well as ensuring an inherent emotional relevance (as the credits proclaim, over 100,000 children go missing in India annually), the setting provides opportunity for new interpretations of established noir tropes. Here, the tropical rain that falls throughout imparts a woozy, feverish atmosphere, and the frustrating ambivalence of the inspector’s colleagues has overtones of an unjust elitist caste system.
In Joshi’s pursuit of an antagonist lurking literally in shadow (and indeed in the prominence of some distinctive children’s rainwear) the clearest cinematic nods are to 1973 horror classic Don’t Look Now. As with Nicolas Roeg’s brooding masterpiece, Sunrise leaves its audience in constant doubt as to which aspects of the fractured reality on display are genuine, and which are the schizophrenic side effects of pernicious parental grief. An eerily unsettling score further undermines the rational separation of real life from waking dream, present day from frenetic flashback.
Hussain’s performance is worthy of having the whole film hang upon it, as indeed it does. Initially establishing a measured gravitas befitting his character’s station, he noticeably, physically deteriorates as the film progresses, as if the constant downpour is eroding his humanity, leaving only anguish.
By boldly transposing the visual language of European and American film noir to the Indian capital, Sen-Gupta wins the battle to win over his audience using proven tactics, but rest assured that he is also able to deliver his knock-out blows from brash new angles.
Sunrise does not yet have a confirmed date of release.
Watch the trailer for Sunrise here: