hipster filmmaker set out to make a poverty-porn documentary, but he shot the
Hindi version of Natural Born Killers instead.
Moto-rickshaw driver Narayan Srivastav is already violent, misogynistic, and
sexually frustrated, but the camera only encourages his anti-social behavior in
Rohit Mittal’s Autohead (trailer here), which screens
during the 2016 Ithaca Fantastik.
desperately poor life ought to be the stuff of foreign film festival plaudits,
but the director, his sound man, and his cameraman will get a nasty surprise
when they meet Roopa, the prostitute. Srivastav clearly fancies himself her pimp
and lover, but she clearly sees him as a creepy guy who occasionally refers
clients her way. Srivastav’s interest in her gives sexual obsession a bad name.
It also further poisons his problematic opinion of women in general.
a mass of seething resentments, it does not take much to push Srivastav into
violence. Of course, once he starts, it is hard to stop. Indeed, the resulting
feeling of power stokes the hypocritical cabbie’s delusions of moral
its obvious inspirations, Oliver Stone’s NBK
and the NC-17 Belgian mockumentary Man
Bites Dog, Autohead has as much
to say about media malpractice as it does about the sociological causes of
violent crime. The line between reportage and voyeurism is similarly porous in
all three films. Salman Khan also gets name-checked a lot (so good luck getting
a wide release in India).
is pretty eerie watching Deepak Sampat turn on a dime from pathetic sad sack to
sociopathic psychopath in a matter of seconds. It is a bold, fiercely
unsentimental performance that really drives the film. In contrast, Ronjini
Chakroborty’s Roopa is a potent, sexualized force, whose heedlessness just
makes viewers wince. Frankly, we have seen the gist of this before, but the
work of Sampat and Chakroborty, as well as the Mumbai setting, makes it feel
relatively fresh all over again.
It is hard not to think about the horrific death
of Jyoti Singh (documented in India’s Daughter) while viewing Autohead,
which is definitely a buzz kill. Yet, that sort of reaction is exactly what
Mittal is hoping for. It is a violent indictment of misogynist violence—and it
mostly works as it was intended. Recommended for those who appreciate extreme social
criticism, Autohead screens this
Thursday (11/10) during Ithaca Fantastik.
Labels: Hindi Cinema, Ithaca Fantastic '16, Serial killer movies