Get back on that train


A highlight at both the Cairo and Sao Paulo international film festivals, "Madholal Keep Walking" is part of India’s new ‘realistic’ cinema movement and is Jai Tank’s first feature film. Born in the early seventies, Tank edited and worked as an assistant director for television commercials and as an agency producer until 2001 when he established Dream Cut, an organization that offers production and creative film services. Since then, he has directed numerous corporate, documentary and public service films. His first feature film, "Madholal Keep Walking" follows the Dubey family, composed of Madholal, his wife Kamla and their two daughters Sudha and Sumi. They live in Mumbai and are part of a social class that Tank himself says is disappearing.

The colors are bright and smiles abundant among the Dubey family and their neighbors, who worry about typical issues, such as when Sudha will get married, how Sumi is doing in school, and how to ask for an extra 500 rupees for Sumi’s birthday cake. However, everything falls apart when Madholal and his friends take a later train – the train that explodes in the Mumbai blasts.

Perhaps in an effort to maintain the realism of the film, the blast is just that – explosive clouds of orange, black and gray – without a focus on the aftermath of the event. All the same, Madholal’s extreme trauma from the blast does not require the typical "Bollywood" effect, we have come to expect from Indian movies. Suddenly we hear background songs explaining the underlying themes of the story and Madholal has a psychotic reaction to a briefcase left outside a temple, which is then absurdly picked up by someone random. Soon after, Anwar, Madholal’s neighbor and seemingly the only Muslim in the film is arrested for allegedly planning the Mumbai blasts. Needless to say, the events are rather coincidental, since there is no lead-up to this revelation, and the offered explanation later describes the "operation" that Anwar’s "aunt and uncle" were visiting to take care of.

Whether or not Anwar actually took part in the bombing is left unconfirmed, but once you ignore this part of the plot, it is possible to focus on Madholal’s battle with fear and some interesting manifestations of the struggle that could only take place in India.

Sudha, Madholal’s daughter, sacrifices her future to become a breadwinner for the family, but by not asking her father’s permission, Madholal feels emasculated and upset, but does not lash out violently. Sudha provides Madholal with the verbal lashing he needs, when his wife Kamila cannot articulate that he has turned a nightmare into a reality by hiding from the world.

When Madholal later gets back on the train to fight his fears, his friends are all there, chiding him and giving him a hard time for his depression. Although he fights with them briefly, he eventually realizes they are right. This is in contrast to many Arabic films where audiences are left mourning the plight of the working man who could have changed his circumstances, but due to his pride and stubbornness was doomed to failure.

Although the film will invoke few tears and the songs constantly reiterate that Madholal should stop being afraid, the film has a strong and positive message about family, and the perception of India as a symbol for the family in general. India has a grain of humbleness, with a sense of self awareness and self criticism that leaves room for improvement, no matter where one’s place. Even if you have lost your arm, have no money, your wife’s only specialty is her potatoes and your two daughters think they are smarter than you, get back on that train – there is hope yet.




Related Articles

Back to top button