What is the story about?
Ghalib (Suvinder Vicky) is a truck driver who works tirelessly so much so that he is the only one to mark 500,000 kilometres at the transport company he works for. Respected by his colleagues for his passion for his work, he is trusted by the owners he works for. As soon as his truck reaches the milestone of gaining 500,000 kilometres, he gets a severe backache. Yet, Ghalib wants to work and one of the reasons being he has to compensate his wife's family who wants him to help them after her death. But what happens when the company wants new blood to take control of the trucks? With this looming threat over his job, Ghalib is in a state of quandary. Will, he let Pash (Lakshvir Saran), the new intern take over an identity that he has come to both build and become trapped in?
India is a country lived through the millions of residents that inhabit them, Milestone gives the audience a glance at a fictional character that mirrors one of the most underappreciated and ignored communities of our country which is the transport industry and its truck drivers. To be honest, I think the country is run by truck drivers who go to the reaches of the country to deliver materials. The film gives the audience a chance to look inside a world that is masked by the facade of the capitalist society running above it.
As novel a concept it may be, at the heart of the film, this is Ghalib's story and his struggle with his identity. Being a truck driver he has only known himself to be that and others have come to know him like that. Without his occupation, he is a nobody and that becomes overwhelming for our protagonist who is on the verge of losing his job to a young recruit. Although this is Ghalib's story, the film does not ponder only over that narrative and it presents the audience with the conundrum of two truths, one of Ghalib losing his job and two of a young Pash being employed so that he can help his older sister. Milestone presents us with the question, what happens to the old when the young get employed and if not employ the young, how will they survive? For Ghalib, his job is not only a matter of financial security but as said before, a part of his identity. One of the things the director shows us this "trapped" identity is through Ghalib's truck. Early on we get to know that Ghalib has developed chronic back pain and is limping, cleverly his truck is also shown to be lopsided. Everyone that he is "friends" with comes from his occupation and the only time he ever steps out of that comfort zone is when remembering his wife through his neighbour's memories. These are just one of the few things that the film shows us that presents Ghalib's story.
How do you define a performance that was so real that it felt as if you are watching a documentary on the man's life and not actually a film in which he is an "actor"? That is how much Suvinder Vicky embodied the role of Ghalib, the protagonist of Milestone. In fact, this is one of the few films that can boast of having a cast that believes in "performing" rather than "acting" because every expression, body language, voice modulation was so articulate and precise that one cannot separate the artist from the character. There was so much truth in the story of the film that it had to come out in the performance of the actors. Suvinder Vicky was heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. He wore the skin of Ghalib right down to little anecdotes that the character would have like limping when walking, straightening out the jacket, glancing nervously when in front of authority etc. Lakshvir Saran as Pash was honest and felt real because perhaps I could see myself in a character such as him, being close in age, experience or otherwise. There was a need to show characters that were rooted in a reality that has been ignored in our bliss of privileged lives and I would like to congratulate Ivan Ayr for fleshing out such a beautiful story through Ghalib and Pash.
Music & Other Departments
Throughout the entirety of the film, there is no background music so to say but only the sounds that are heard throughout the film like from the road or when Ghalib plays the radio. The technique lends itself to the narrative of the film because Ghalib has a lot of silences that speak much louder than any background music. It amplified the situation that he was facing and turned the audience into an empath. The only "music" is heard when the credits roll and a soft Chopin's nocturn no. 29 pulls us back into the reality of our lives.
Mise-en-scene has been put into focus to bring out the nature of the film. Shot predominantly as a perspective of the protagonist, Ghalib, the director moves the camera in a way that shows us not only what Ghalib is seeing but also what goes on around him, like a tiny hole to peek into his life. One of the most prominent things that I noticed was the use of blue and yellow to paint the frames of the film. Blue was mostly used to show Ghalib's inner torment while yellow, the chirpier colour, was used to show the outside world, a world in which Ghalib has to hide his inner self to come off as professional and detached from the world. One of the examples of this is how his apartment is completely painted blue while the building is yellow. To contrast him from this bright world, he is seen wearing a dark brown jacket, prominently separating him from the world which does not really know the real Ghalib.
Cinematography is the thread that weaves the narrative together. With neutral or sometimes low lighting, the mood of the film has been kept sombre. Some of the frames are so beautiful that they seem photographed or even painted.
The performances, the cinematography, the story, the direction, everything fits like a puzzle to bring out a film that is much needed in trying times like this. I have never watched a film in which a voice has been given to truck drivers. These people are mostly nameless, even faceless for us lest only for their big automobiles that somehow also become a part of their identity. The concept of looking at a capitalist society through the lens of a truck driver at the sunset of his employment is so novel that I cannot imagine anything else being the highlight of the film other than the film itself.
The film takes its own time to reveal the focal issue which it revolves around which some of the audience might find slow or dragging.
Did I enjoy it?
Yes, it is a clever, well-written, we directed and we'll performed film which nowadays is akin to a blue moon.
Do I recommend it?