Milestone: The Fear of Skimming Identity
Meel Patthar (Milestone) is the new film, released on Netflix on 7th May 2021. Here Rachit Raj gives you a first day first show review of the film. Rachit prefers to be called a film critic by accident, an academician by design, and a storyteller by choice.
Meel Patthar or Milestone as it is released as on Netflix as, is a searing gaze at the lonely, largely invisible experience of ageing and wanting to remain of some service. Written, directed and edited by Ivan Ayr, who previously delivered Soni, dives deep in the life of an ageing truck driver, holding the mirror of a capitalist society with lyrical subtlety as it explores the fear of being irrelevant in a world where to work is to be identified.
Ghalib (Suvinder Vicky) lives in NCR in a blue-walled, scruffy apartment. He is alone – his wife died a while back – and spends most of his time driving trucks. The truck defines his life in more ways than one. Unlike a road movie, Ghalib’s relationship with truck is more about being bound by it rather than emancipated. His life is not about being emancipated. Like Fern of Nomadland, Ghalib iss too burdened by grief to find any optimism around.
In the very first scene of the film we find Ghalib complaining about his backache. This is a recurring visual, and verbal presence in the film. Throughout the film, the pain stands as a metaphor for an ageing body, that is juxtaposed by a younger, more physically agile Pash (Lakshvir Saran).
पूरी दुनिया में ज़िंदगी की बढ़ती जद्दोजहद के बीच बढ़ती उम्र में ढलती क्षमता के साथ आजीविका (livelihood) और socially relevant (सामाजिक रुप से प्रासंगिक) बने रहने का संघर्ष फिल्मों का प्रमुख विषय बन रहा है। ऑस्कर विजेता ‘नोमैडलैंड’ हो या ‘मीलपत्थर’.. मूल आत्मा कहीं न कहीं यही है….।
Like Ayr’s previous film, Meel Patthar is also about the relationship between a professional superior and junior. However, unlike Soni, the relationship here is a troubled one. An animalistic relationship that is driven not by unity but by being the one who stands at the end of the tall, lasting duel.
It is easy to find parallel’s between Meel Patthar and Nomadland. It is almost something too easy to do. Ayr, though, uses this base to explore different ideas.
Ghalib sees Pash as his unwanted, unapproved heir. In one of the film’s most powerful scenes he talks about seeing people his age becoming irrelevant and eventually passing. Vicky nails the vulnerability of a man who is seeing the truth of his mortality right in front of him. Later in the movie he tries to bribe Pash for a longer shot at the job of a truck driver. He is desperate, as if aware that if he is forced to leave his job, it would lead to an acute identity crisis.
It is easy to find parallel’s between Meel Patthar and Nomadland. It is almost something too easy to do. Ayr, though, uses this base to explore different ideas. The film is a rich piece on bruised masculinity, and forsaken arrogance. It is about the universal truth of every able-bodied person slowly, inevitably ageing towards becoming a person with disability. But most importantly, the film is about the desperation of the under-privileged to fight for the bare minimum. The film does not make Ghalib a flawless figure, but it gives him enough to emerge as a regrettable reflection of masculinity, and poverty.
Watching Meel Patthar as a mirror-image to Ayr’s fantastic Soni elevates the impact, and implications of this film. Unlike Soni, that thrived in the empowering friendship of two women in a job that has historically been associated with muscled men, Meel Patthar tries to put two men in that similar position, only to explore how two women forged a friendship in crisis, two men form a strange, turbulent relationship. Behind everything else, Meel Patthar is a story of fragility, and male ego, and Ivan Ayr does a fine job of portraying a character study that makes us see inwards, as well as at the ageing men around us, wondering if life is all about that daunting backache.