Zwigato movie review (2022)
In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, a group of unsung heroes plays an integral role, often overlooked as they navigate the intricate web of food delivery. Director and co-writer Nandita Das invites us on a poignant journey through “Behind the Wheels,” shedding light on the enigmatic lives of food delivery personnel like Manas Mahto (played by Kapil Sharma). Through this heartfelt exploration, the film adeptly addresses not only the hardships of this labor class but also delves into broader societal issues.
The central narrative revolves around Manas, whose wife, Pratima (portrayed by Shahana Goswami), seeks to contribute financially despite his initial reservations. Das masterfully captures Manas’s daily struggles, revealing the layers of complexity woven into the gig economy. One of the film’s focal points is the tantalizing allure of “incentives” dangled by app companies, which ensnare drivers in a ceaseless loop of maximizing deliveries while being exploited at various levels.
As Manas poignantly reflects, “He’s a laborer because he’s helpless,” thereby correcting the placard’s proclamation that “He’s helpless because he’s a laborer.” This statement encapsulates the core theme of the film, exposing the dire circumstances that lead individuals to this laborious profession.
“Behind the Wheels” also skillfully touches upon the deeply rooted class and gender inequalities that permeate society. The film artfully portrays the palpable tension that stems from drudgery and desperation. However, within the film’s noble ambition to intertwine economics, politics, and social structures, there are instances where the narrative’s flow feels disjointed. The film seems to stitch together events, occasionally feeling like a series of loosely connected sequences. These moments slightly impede the overall storytelling.
Nandita Das and co-writer Samir Patil present a relatable narrative, rich with authenticity. Cinematographer Ranjan Palit masterfully captures the commoner’s world in the dingy bylanes of Bhubaneswar, where the story unfolds. By intentionally omitting Odisha’s grand architecture and picturesque beauty, the film attains a heightened sense of realism. Notably, the stop-motion animation during the credits, accompanied by the haunting tune of “Yeh Raat,” serves as a testament to the film’s visual finesse.
Shahana Goswami’s remarkable performance further solidifies her reputation as a versatile actor. With impeccable command over the local Jharkhand accent, body language, and mannerisms, she brings Pratima to life. Kapil Sharma, in a transformative role, sheds his comedian persona to embody the complex character of Manas. As a loving yet conditioned husband, a snarky father, a frustrated worker, and a desperate man, Kapil delivers a revelation, proving his acting prowess beyond comedy.
Manas’s profound frustration is palpable, yet the film concludes with an air of simplicity, leaving viewers yearning for more. The resolution feels somewhat abrupt, lacking the conviction needed to fully resonate with audiences.
In spite of its leisurely pacing, “Behind the Wheels” remains a worthwhile watch due to its earnest intentions and standout performances. The film’s greatest achievement is its ability to cultivate empathy for those who undertake menial jobs to simplify our lives. It beckons us to ponder and reflect on their struggles, underscoring the value of recognizing and appreciating the labor that often goes unnoticed.
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