In Achal Mishra’s new fifty minute long feature Dhuin, which is now premiering at the 22nd Mumbai Festival, ambitions, emotions and the related frustrations of life come staring at us in nervously unsettling ways in its stillness, fogged gloom and the burdens of reality. Through striking visual imagery, and a gorgeous background score dominated by minimalistic guitar riffs, Mishra adopts a pristine, simple and subtle approach of narrating a story of dreams and ambitions, thereby delivering the deep impact of his quietly disturbing film in a poignant resonance of life.
An artist, his dreams, him planning for a move to an unaffordable, upscale world of opportunities; contrasting with his ground realities of life, his constraints with family, or his limited exposure to the world of ‘true art’, or even his discomfort to toss up his individual roots to get where he needs to get, forms the core of Dhuin. And Mishra who has always been a believer of less is more, right from Gamak Ghar, takes those same principles forward in Dhuin as well and infuses the stillness of disconnected nothingness in his story with lyrical framing of images, music that blends in seamlessly to that poetry, leaving the audience with a deep inward sense of retrospection about their own individual equations of dreams, aspirations and the price that they come at.
While Dhuin is a film that should not be spoilt by writing too much about it, but rather should be left to its audience to be experienced and internalized, it would feel incomplete if we do not talk about some of the visual metaphors that Mishra smoothly blends into his narrative. And most of them are linked to various moving objects, transporting life on the go.
So when the protagonist Pankaj has an altercation with his father regarding who has been taking care of the family during the pandemic and then storms out of the house in anger, it all gets amplified by the roaring rumble of a train going past him drowning every other sound of life in vicinity. In a completely contrasting use of the image of a moving train, the camera is placed on our side of a soiled curtain and we see the train moving past from a distance from the other side thereby swaying the very ordinary piece of cloth in its impact. The random flying movement of the curtain suddenly comes to a standstill after the train has moved out of the frame. The positioning of the shot is a good visual allegory to the underlying themes of how a more attractive, pacier life happening at a distance at times helps fan our dreams and ambitions, but when the transient influence is over, the stillness, the mundane nature of our circumstances comes and bites us back even more.
And its not just the trains. As Pankaj is trying to instigate the hero inside him and climbing up the trees of ambitions to freeze frames and explore a world of opportunities, his gigantic dreams further take a flight of fantasy thereby dwarfing his own real existence in one shot. In a complete contrast, the final stunner of a frame with the father and the son riding a dilapidated bike and making that journey towards their modest achievable milestones, is a humble resonance of the finite limits of life and possibilities where each of us are carrying the burden of our own selves and our families to make the both ends meet.
And then there is more. Since Mishra is talking about the journey of an artist and his dreams, he borrows from the metaphors of art to make some very strong points. Hence the consumerism and propensity of selling art through social media as a product is seeded in as a YouTube tutorial video trying to teach the intense art of crying on screen through simple tips and tricks. Similarly, while the comforting image of Pankaj Tripathi as the most down to earth, accessible star from humble beginnings resonates so well with the protagonist, he finds himself completely alienated when his seemingly more successful acquaintances randomly throw in references to Kiarostami and his cinema in their casual chitchat as if to make a point about their understanding and love for deep meaningful cinema. That wind certainly does not carry Pankaj along with it, his roots are too humble, his exposure is too limited to seamlessly get included in that conversation.
There’s enough and more of this vivid symbolism in Dhuin. The best one can do justice to the same is by watching the film and experience its finer details. Any observational note about it will only be limited in its reach, both in terms of depth and breadth of what Achal Mishra achieves through his fifty minute feature. It makes one fall in love with cinema again. It may also inspire you to go back and rivisit the humble pristine experience of Gamak Ghar again. I know I will not resist that temptation. And neither should you. Both for Gamak Ghar and Dhuin.
Dhuin is now premiering at the 22nd Online Mumbai Film Festival and is available for free viewing till Saturday, Feb 26th. Gamak Ghar has been available on MUBI for a while now.
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