Milestone is about a man’s struggle to remain relevant in an ecosystem that would much rather have him erased. Suvinder Vicky plays the recently widowed truck driver Ghalib, a Sisyphean character who seems to be on a direct path towards painful obsolescence. Milestone is not only the second Venice title to have debuted on Netflix in as many weeks, but like the first — Chaitanya Tamhane’s The Disciple — it is also a story about loneliness.
This multi-layered film is co-written, edited, and directed by Ivan Ayr (known for his 2018 debut film ‘Soni’) and focuses on the personal and professional struggles of truck-industry workers, who hardly seem to live in their permanent residence with their family. They are always on the move and consider the truck as their ‘home’. From the opening scene to the end, the camera shadows Ghalib in an attempt to make viewers feel as if they are trailing him. The audience follows him while he walks with his persistent backache, the continuous cycle of loading and unloading of goods at his workplace, driving his truck on the highway, and guiding his understudy Pash. The close-up shots of the truck tires in motion and the dusty highways keep you moving and involved with the slow-burning characters of Ghalib and Pash.
The intensity in the scenes increases the overall impact of the story. Most of the dialogues are a mix of Punjabi and Hindi which perfectly blends with the story giving it a genuine feel. The conversations are deep and meaningful, like the scene where Pash comes to see a dead body closely and Ghalib consoles him by saying “Bhatere meel aane hain,” (many more milestones to come), which specifies that life has just begun and there will be similar miserable situations one has to face at every point. So, face it and be strong!
Suvinder Vicky steals the show as Ghalib. He uses his expressions and deep eyes to convey the miseries of his life. Ghalib being a nice man accommodates everything regardless of what life throws at him. In a sequence, he first dismisses the man who lands up at his house to paint flower pots, but later allows him to do that just like the way his dead wife would have wanted. He realizes that this person is also a daily wager and his efforts to come all the way should not be wasted. Lakshvir Saran is incredible as the youngster struggling between his desire to be nice and the need for this job and money. All the women in the movie are courageous and have powerful roles—be it the female sarpanch-head of the panchayat, (Mohinder Gujral), the punctured-tire repair lady (Shanti Devi), or Ghalib’s sister-in-law (Gaurika Bhatt).
Milestone, confined as it is inside the insular world of the North Indian trucking community, is a grand parable about India — a country with an overwhelmingly young population that finds itself in direct conflict with the older generation. The film was shot before the first lockdown last year, but in light of recent events, it has taken on greater meaning. As the elderly of the country perish, Milestone rambles in, asking questions that few are willing to confront: What is a life worth in the world’s largest democracy?
It's commendable that Milestone doesn’t take its slow burn in the direction of violence—something all too common in Indian cinema. Still, the film’s heaviness holds it back. Ayr’s control is impressive but many of the static frames are dark and just not very interesting (a long conversation between Ghalib and a drunk friend comes to mind). Ghalib’s eventual offer to the family is practical but has no resonance with the rest of the film. Naming the truckers after legendary poets Ghalib and Pash seem significant—and Ayr leaves it at that. Soni was propelled by incidents and conflict. Milestone, for all its formal rigor and moments of observation, stalls by the roadside.
Ivan Ayr’s 97 minutes long film is unquestionably a reflection of the life that will keep you involved. Some might find the pace a tad bit slow but the story revolving around the life struggles of the characters will resonate with you throughout. The movie feels like just the beginning, not the end of the road.
Final Score – [6.8/10]
Reviewed by – Ritika Kispotta
Follow her @KispottaRitika on Twitter (https://twitter.com/KispottaRitika)
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