Straight to your head. Right there is where it hits you the viewing of Autohead (2016), strange, striking and magnificent work done by Rohit Mittal. Strange because shows a mingle of genres hard to define and catalogue: mockumentary, terror, thriller, drama manners, found footage and television report; to go back again to the documentary about cinema. Brilliant metacinema exercise with such an unexpected as wished ending.
Autohead narrates the story of Narayan, a driver of a rickshaw in Bombay. The rickshaws are a three-wheel vehicles that circulate through the busy streets of many Asian countries. Pulled, moved by pedaling or directly motorized (as is the case on Autohead), is the usual mean of transport in India, inside cities and towns. Narayan is not only the main character of Autohead but the protagonist of a documentary that a group of young filmmakers are making, which in an ironic way is played by Rohit Mittal himself, his sound guy and camera operator. As the plot advances, we start to enter in Narayan’s psyche, masterly interpreted by Deepak Sampat, and we go along with him during his turbulent nights and most profound fears. The same as Travis Bickle of Taxi Driver (1974), Mittal and Sampat introduce us in the dirty streets of Bombay and the schizophrenic reality of an ordinary driver who also has an aim, to clean off the city of those elements that contaminates it. But the character of Narayan goes much further than Travis Bickle, and is translated into his relationship with the prostitute. Not only he accompanies her to see her clients, he also loves her, he acts as an improvised pimp. His mission is not to save her from her wrong life, but save her from her own hell that runs her blood and soul. If Scorsese had been born in India, he would have filmed Autohead.
The most unexpected turning point of the film and the one that elevates it to a special dimension is the filming of the documentary itself. Little by little, the team of filmmakers takes prominence as Narayan’s own crimes occur. In an exercise of lucidity and cinematographic ethics, the filmmakers suffer a conflict of interests that puts them in the spot of wonder: Should we carry on with the filming? Should we go to the police? The filmmakers finally lean towards the second option in which (from my point of view) is the only scene of pure fiction of the plot, but that has been filmed in such a cruel and realistic way that looks like a documentary.
Following, one of the most surprising and at the same times longed for endings that I have seen in the last years. In a film where is hard to empathize with the main characters because of the bitter, hard and demolishing mise-en-scène and of its characters; the filmmakers become the real scum of society and its authentic corruptors. Rohit tells us that being a filmmaker entails a responsibility, as well as our films have consequences to assume.
Maybe is time to clean off the city of dirty filmmakers.
Traducción de Silvia Trullén