Madholal Keep Walking!
Director: Jai Tank
Actors: Subrat Dutta, Swara Bhaskar
Mumbai is truly India’s common man city, seamlessly accommodating within, maximums of both the nation’s wealth and filth. Madholal (Subrat Dutta, rank ordinary for a lead actor) is that common man. A day in his life starts out with a series of long lines: outside the common loo, at the bus stop. And then at the suburban railway station, where commuters disregard all rules of civility in favour of the mad rush. The station (said, ‘teshan’ in Mumbai) is at once a daily ritual and a social occasion for most.This is where Madho, a security guard by day, meets his mates on the Borivali Fast (a popular train route) that ferries these friends (hammies, all of them) in and out of the Island city. Madho’s loud buddies chew paan (betel leaves), spit into plastic bags, one stutters, the other eyes a girl. They make jokes together. I suspect the intent is humour, the outcome, annoyingly blah.
The common man, advertised on this film’s posters like the Johnny Walker of the whisky brand, lives with a family of four in a small tenement. His eldest daughter (Swara Bhaskar, suitably calm and adept for the role) is eligible for marriage: something that remains for the great Indian lower class, an upper-most cause for worry. The girl appears interested in a young neighbour (Pranay Narayan, arresting presence), who is but Muslim by birth. Her family, the Dubeys, is Hindu, and immigrants from the east. Almost halfway through the film, I imagined, this would be the conflict in the story. It’s not touched upon. What is? At some point, you desperately wonder.
Well, atmospherics, all across, executed amateurishly with poor camera work, jumps in edits, over-acting, that’s all. You still get the picture. The premise is of course older than one of the most cinematographed cities in the world. With nothing to take the film forward, the camera stops for a moment at a little boy defecating in the loo, or close-up of a biscuit getting dipped into chai. Boredom prevails. Banal lines persist: “Aise waqt mein insaan hi insaan ke kaam aata hai (A friend in need is a man indeed).” But you keep looking for the plot. You just miss the finesse in form.
Madho loses a limb to a bomb blast in the train. He gets phantom sensations of the bomb, always near him. This is the other half of a film that started out, you’re certain, assuming itself as an “issue based” picture that looks at Islamic terror, exploitative nature of the news-media (obviously), the bomb, and Bombay. Tell us more. Two more points are spelt out in clear prose: “A song of a common man” (the movie’s tagline); “Only when we stop being afraid, do we start living” (final quote).
There is, I suppose, a deep lesson here still. It concerns filmmaking, if nothing else -- that it's not about the point you wish to make. But what you make of that point. And how you make it, which truly counts. A plot helps. Ah, I sound like the preachin’ papa already. This picture’s certainly had some effect, for sure!