Director: Ivan Air
Writers: Ivan Ayr, Neil Manny Kant
Cinematography: Angelo Facini
Edited by: Ivan Air
Starring: Suvinder Vicky, Lakshvir Saran
Streaming on: Netflix
In the second feature of Ivan Ayr Mill Patar, the main character is a truck driver named Galib. This small detail encapsulates the comparisons that this film throws away – there is little poetry in the life of the screen, but so much lyricism in the way they are presented. Without drama, sentimentality or even background, Ivan creates a sad study of the character of a person determined by his work.
The truck is everything in Galib’s life. In the best way it reminded me of Fern through Nomadland, whose van is her home. Galib has an apartment, but he rarely goes there that when he does, he has to wipe the dust off the dining table. When a neighbor apologizes for not coming to his house to express his condolences when his wife dies, Galib replies: “Koi baat nahin jee, mere yahan toh aksar tala hi rehta hai. “Silent man, Galib seems the most comfortable on the road. At the beginning of the film we are told that he has traveled five hundred thousand kilometers. Later he tells someone:” I do this job because I am who I am. “
Read also: Mill Patar, Strong, lyrical character
But Mill Patar, which means a milestone, is far from a road movie that romanticizes the journey and the lessons from it. Galib is attached to his truck like a cow to a plow. He knows what his future holds – his friend Dilbaug has been fired because his eyesight is lost and he can’t drive very well at night. But even if there is an escape, Galib does not want it. His truck seems to be his most rewarding relationship.
The film begins with Galib removing the hood from his truck. Through the film, Ivan frames footage of trucks – even when the men are standing outside talking, the shot includes trucks or some part of the vehicle. But these aren’t the flashy, colorful vehicles you might remember from the numerous Hindi movies with drivers like Mela or Caravan. These are clumsy, gray, motorized animals that become a substitute for the home – Galib even keeps the masala in his.
In his first film, Sony, Ivan revealed himself as a master of silence and slow burning. This continues through Mill Patar. Using long photos and muted gray-blue tones, Ivan constructs a film that gains strength with each scene. Ivan has no particular interest in feeding the audience with spoons. In fact, he skillfully conceals information that only complements the melancholy mysteries of this film. Galib’s wife was from Sikkim. It may have been a love marriage, but why did the relationship get sour? Galib mentions that she has stopped trusting him, but we are not told what happened. And we could have long conversations about Galib’s injury and what it means to carry him.
Mill Patar is located in the NCR area and many of the characters in the film are migrants – Galib sold his family home to buy an apartment in the city. His neighbor is from Kashmir – she longs for snow in winter. A young union leader talks about homes in their village drowning in flooded waters while being forced to strike to increase their salaries by just two rupees. But the owners refuse to even let them into the office to have a conversation. This character is played by the poet Aamir Aziz, whose “Sab Yaad Rakha Jayega” became a protest anthem during the CAA-NRC protests.
Like this casting, Ivan and his co-writer Neil Manny Kant skillfully weave subversive activity and criticism into Galib’s fabric. They insist that we immerse ourselves in this joyless world and take into account the cost of capitalist enterprise and the insensitivity with which people with power and money treat those without it. But there is no militancy in their argument – it is rather a cry for a world in which, as Dilbaug says, people have stopped listening.
Galib is played by Punjabi actor Swinder Vicky, who shot the film with his low but charismatic presence. Its elevated frame and body language capture Galib’s fatigue and agonizing road loneliness. Lakshvir Saran, like Galib Paash’s apprentice, is also very good. Galib realizes that Paas will eventually take over. Every day, Galib approaches aging. But he also understands that he has no choice but to remain in transit.
Ivan’s great collaborators – DOP Angello Faccini and sound designer Gautam Nair – reinforce his vivid storytelling style. The result is a film that is contemplative and beautifully disturbing.