Director: Vaibhav Munjal
Cast: Dhruv Gupta
Platform Paune Dus (9 ¾) is a young film. In the sense, it oozes the kind of uncomplicated ideology – and playful perceptions – you’d associate only with keen storytellers embarking on a hopeful career. It’s about a dour-faced entrance exam topper (Dhruv Gupta), visibly dazed, searching for a mythical platform at a crowded Indian railway station. The title, of course, is familiar to Harry Potter enthusiasts – a figurative hat-tip to the fictitious Kings Cross Station platform occupied by the wizard-carrying Hogwarts Express.
For a while, it looks like a reality-television prank. The boy spends most of the film asking baffled, blurry strangers about this strange location. You begin to wonder what the deal is. You wait for the almighty revelation for ten minutes. He’s traveling somewhere, but we don’t know much more, right till the dying seconds. I like the way 22-year-old director Vaibhav Munjal wants his movie to suggest the machinations of an ingrained culture, without being obvious about it.
Abhay Kumar, a former classmate of mine, recently made a documentary called Placebo; he shadowed four driven medical students in AIIMS-Delhi for a year, determined to capture, through their most trying phases, the heartbreaking futility and drone mentality of a nation’s education system. Munjal’s protagonist looks to be a disillusioned breakaway from that world, reflecting more than just the sinister consumerism of a coaching-class epidemic or overworked ‘scholar’.
Some of Abhay’s early shorts, too, had fleeting elements, children and music riffs from the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings franchises – subconscious portals of fairytales and dragons, the most visual consequences of growing up in an increasingly numbing academic environment.
The last shot of this film, too, is its most striking, framed with an eye for perspective and effect. It’s the first time we see the boy from a third person’s point of view – where he, finally, becomes part of a larger story instead of being the story all along.
The point being, it’s important for such filmmakers to continue exploring, especially artistically, their reading of our times. Their expression often evolves into legitimate and forceful voices. Films like these can only be made by students who’ve fearlessly woken up to the necessity of their own identities.
If they don’t tell us the truth early on, before their minds assume the philosophical existentiality of forced adulthood – who else will?
Watch Platform Paune Dus here: