Ivan Ayr’s new film Meel Patthar (Milestone) is an extremely nuanced look at the mundane life of a class of people where they are sort of battling with this tragedy of being an easily replaceable entity. Narrated as the story of a trucker who has driven over 5 lakh kilometers, the movie feels metaphorical at many places. It was interesting how a seemingly dull premise got an engaging treatment. With less spoon-feeding and a lot of open ends, Meel Patthar is one movie that has a broad scope to be interpreted in different ways.
Ghalib, a truck driver who is living in the NCR, is our central protagonist. His wife died recently, and things haven’t been easy for Ghalib off late. With the Khap Panchayat demanding him to compensate his wife’s family, Ghalib is doing all the possible work shifts despite his ill health to gather the money. The events that unfold in this challenging phase when he meets this new apprentice named Pash is what we get to witness in Meel Patthar.
The movie easily belongs to that slow burn category. It takes ample time to establish the characters. The suicide of Ghalib’s wife is shown to us from a third-person perspective, and Ayr is pushing his viewer to extract every bit of information from the scratches of unfinished dialogues. At one point, when Pash asks Ghalib why he left Kuwait, he just replies have you heard about Saddam Hussain? That’s it. Similar minimalism is there at multiple areas of this script that sort of makes the viewer interpret and understand the main character.
Ivan Ayr’s story fundamentally lingers on to this idea of replaceability. Ghalib’s close friend was fired from the job when he said that his night vision is compromised. The union leader who held the workers together in the strike also got replaced when the powerful ones hijacked the strike. The same crippling fear of being replaced is causing troubles to Ghalib as well. Even though Ghalib is shown as a very decent, insecure, and vulnerable guy in the film, there are certain aspects of that character that Ayr holds back, which sort of resists us from rooting for him completely. Angello Faccini, who has done the cinematography for the movie, prefers to keep that moody ambiance throughout the film. The visual tone and the dark interiors of the truck just become a representation of the dull phase through which Ghalib was going through. The only time when something of a positive nature disrupts the scene’s rhythm happens in the very last moment of the movie.
As Ghalib, Surinder Vicky has an admirable screen presence. As I mentioned earlier, this is a character who is somewhat a mystery for the viewer. He is empathetic towards a fellow worker who was disrespectfully thrown out of his job, and he was also the person who was accused of being ignorant and unfaithful towards his wife. A sense of guilt and anguish was present in Vicky’s performance. Lakshvir Saran as the naive newbie Pash, was also good at being that character.
The day before watching Meel Patthar, I saw the Oscar Winner Nomadland. And interestingly, the visual style, the single character-driven narrative, the always-on-road nature, etc., made the two movies look like members of the same dejected cinematic universe. If minimalistic treatment and character explorations excite you as a cinephile, Meel Patthar is one movie you should definitely watch.
If minimalistic treatment and character explorations excite you as a cinephile, Meel Patthar is one movie you should definitely watch.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended