Ram Kamal Mukherjee’s Rickshawala begins with a lot of promise. Not only does he celebrate the lanes and bylanes of Kolkata in his film, but also lends them a colour and tone, which is typically his own.
At the fore is a couple who are worried about their future and the hero needs to get a job. Not because he is in love and in a hurry to get married, but because he wants to break away from the jargon of being someone who is stuck with a rickshaw that his father has handed him down, to go figure and make a living with.
The film also delves deep into the migrants living in the metropolis and how the Bengali bhadrolok is sometimes dismissive of them as outsiders in the city. The director is sharp in his portrayal of hypocrisy when it comes to choosing sides in the outsider-insider debate. Politics, both at the micro and macro level, is acknowledged in a rather typical way, hinging on the lines of repetitive.
Yet, the film could have done better. Even though it boasts of a prestigious win at the The Best Shorts Film Competition, California, USA there are trappings which could have been avoided.
The very caricaturist portrayal of a bored housewife looking to seduce a young rickshawala is not just outdated, but also extremely sexist. The corresponding lecture of sexual freedom looks more like an afterthought than a natural progression in the plot. The curry tale of migrant woes and sexist stereotypes of older women on the hunt for toys does not quite fit into this particular milieu.
Another issue that the director has taken up is unemployment at the lowest level. Poverty is not an issue here, rather a lifestyle that a family shows no will to jump out of. They will send the son to college, but object to his going for job interviews. Instead they want him to follow his father’s footsteps and make the same mistakes that others had made. This juxtaposition of poverty-struck migrants as against the will to not look for something new to improve their situation is rather unexplained in the storyline.
Over the years rickshawalas from the city, or rather their portrayals in films, have made a lasting impact on the minds of the audience. This, however, seems to be a sad exception!
Director: Ram Kamal Mukherjee
Cast: Avinash Dwivedi, Sangita Sinha
Platform: BIIGGBANG Amusement
Rating: 2/5 stars