Milestone (Meel Patthar) | Director: Ivan Ayr | Writers: Ivan Ayr, Neel Mani Kant | Cinematography: Angello Faccini | Sound: Gautam Nair | Cast: Suvinder Vicky, Lakshvir Saran, Pavitra Mattoo | Streaming on: Netflix
The protagonist of Milestone (Meel Patthar) is Ghalib, a truck driver. He has spent most of his life on the road transporting goods from city to city and has clocked 500,000 km – a ‘milestone’. He is alone and lonely. He is doing double shifts to cope up with the trauma of his wife’s sudden demise. The similarity between the great poet and this Ghalib is poetry. This Ghalib has zero interest in anything else than his truck. Driving a truck is his identity. But his life is like poetry; bitter it gets, harder it hits.
Director Ivan Ayr’s narrative is lyrical. The loneliness in Ghalib’s life, the life on road, naturally lends a lyrical tone to the film. Angello Faccini’s camera captures this aching poetry in the mundane life of a truck driver. He is ably helped by Gautam Nair’s detailed sound design. The film is set in Delhi, NCR. The blue-greys of Delhi winter add to the melancholic yet immersive experience. Ayr uses long and distant takes and minimal cutting with almost no background score. The inherent realism of the setting and performances haunts you throughout.
Also read: The Disciple review: Simply Magical!
Ghalib is played by Punjabi actor Suvinder Vicky. His face, body language speaks volumes of his life. He married a Sikkimese lady, sold his ancestral house so that he could buy a flat in the city for her, but then the spring of romance was hit by the summer of reality. He is held responsible by the Panchayat of his Pind (village) for his wife’s death. He has to pay compensation to his wife’s family.
On the other hand, he is nursing a lower backache. A subtle symbolism to show how the capitalist system has broken the labor class, which are actually the backbone of the system. You know how your life gets affected when the laborers go on strike. The ones with the money and power oppress and exploit the ones who lack both. The film is mounted on Ghalib’s fragile shoulders. And Vicky carries the film with utmost sincerity.
Watch the Milestone trailer here:
Ghalib’s old colleague Dilbaug is fired from the job because of his night blindness. Ghalib has to train a young aspiring truck driver Pash (Lakshvir Saran). Ghalib knows that Pash (means trap in Hindi) will replace him and he will lose his job. The only thing that drives him is driving. Most of the characters are migrants. All the supporting characters in the film seem like real people – truck drivers, cleaners, neighbors, liquor store owners – cast in a movie. Lakshvir Saran as Pash and Pavitra Mattoo as the Kashmiri neighbor are very good in their parts.
There’s no plot, no hero’s journey. Milestone is a character study of Ghalib. Filmmaker Chaitanya Tamhane (The Disciple, Court – both available on Netflix) in his recent interview said that he’s not interested in the hero’s journey because that is not the truth of life. Same is true for Ivan Ayr’s Milestone. Ghalib’s life doesn’t change. But there’s rain before it FADES TO BLACK. Will there be a new hope? It is one of many such brilliant symbolisms in the film. Watch Milestone for these subtle gems.