The Pet Chicken ‘From Hell’
Feb 20, 2019
The density of human life in Mumbai can give rise to peculiar circumstances—as the filmmaker Rishi Chandna describes it, “situations where the mundane intersects with the insane.” In this manic cross section of life, Chandna told The Atlantic, “nothing is considered too bizarre to witness unbiasedly.”
When Chandna heard about a family living with a rooster as a pet in their cramped city apartment, the filmmaker found it to be such an instance of Mumbai absurdity. “It was an act completely outside societal norms,” Chandna said, “especially because [the family were] meat eaters. Because of the nuisance the chicken had become, they were debating whether to let it live or to eat it. Their unflinching pragmatism toward their own choices drew me in.”
The family’s interactions with their unlikely pet were so humorous that Chandna decided to film them. His short documentary, Tungrus, features interviews with exasperated family members and observational footage of the chicken wreaking havoc on the apartment. The bird, first purchased on a whim by the family’s live-in uncle as a “toy” to amuse the cats, has since grown into a petulant, obstinate creature. It crows and defecates at all hours of the day, and seems to take particular joy in attacking unsuspecting family members during quiet moments. “He has a mind of his own,” one of the sons says. “He likes to go where he pleases.”
Tungrus is certainly an entertaining slice of life, but for Chandna, it is also a deeply human story that reveals much about our relationship to animals. “We use animals as reflections of human consciousness,” Chandna said. “Each character in the film must probe the nature of affection, loyalty, and even the ethics of eating another creature.”
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Author: Emily Buder
About This Series
A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.