Expectedly, this film is also deliberate, slow, complex and in various moments befuddling. One grasps at the little that is said and wonders about all that is left unsaid.
At the outset, it’s difficult to say what this film is about. It is about a Punjabi Dalit family on the outskirts of Bhatinda mutely watching their neighbours being displaced by some powerful landlords who want to put up an industry there. Their fabric of life, even if dreary, is slowly disintegrating and they are just left to watch helplessly.
The film also details the life of their eldest son, the strong, fierce Melu (Samuel John Sikander), a cycle rickshaw driver, who is fighting to earn a decent living in Bhatinda but, between his struggle to survive in the city and send money to his family, he realizes often the futility of such a conflict. And then there are the women in the family, Melu’s teenage sister Dayalo and her silent anguish and his mother’s vocal outburst at the world and its people and values changing around her. Of course, none of this is discussed in the film at all.
But chimneys fume and hiss in the backdrop, rows and rows of rickshaws are lined up inertly against each other, Melu’s cycle pedals furiously on a dark night in the city while Dayalo lights a kerosene lamp in her small room in the village as a beggar cries out for alms for a blind horse on the night of an eclipse. Samuel portrays the pent up aggression in Melu remarkably well.
Shot in slow moving detail, the film captures the desolation of this family and their anguish about their bleak future. Most of us used to the fast-paced, escapist and surface level storytelling of our regular films with swish, well-to-do protagonists will find Anhey Ghorey Da Daan confusing, dark and unsettling, or boring even. But it is okay, isn’t it? Once in a while, it’s okay for a film to speak through its silence and to move through stillness.