Streaming on MUBI India, independent filmmaker Achal Mishra’s new movie, Dhuin, documents the tussle between an aspiring actor’s dreams and the realities of his life
Last Updated: 03.31 AM, Feb 12, 2023
Story: An aspiring actor from the sleepy town of Darbhanga, 25-year-old Pankaj makes earnest attempts to fulfil his elusive dreams, only to have family obligations and financial realities staring him in the face.
REVIEW: Dhuin may paint a misty picture of aspirations and access, but the message of the story is profound and hard-hitting. If you have watched writer-director Achal Mishra’s stupendous docu-fiction debut, Gamak Ghar, you’ll enjoy the delicious slowness of Dhuin as well. More than his eye for detail, Achal’s distinctive style of presenting a story and its characters in a remarkably natural and spontaneous manner is what deserves a mention. Like his first movie, the filmmaker again goes back to his hometown Darbhanga to narrate a quotidian tale of ordinary people and their elusive dreams.
Told in a span of 50 minutes, Dhuin traces the life of Pankaj (Abhinav Jha), who has set his heart on acting, but all he finds himself doing is walk across the maidans and footpaths of the ancient town in Bihar. His quiet struggle is the central tenet of the plot. The narrative starts with an extract from a nukkad natak being enacted outside the Darbhanga Junction railway station, with Pankaj playing a ‘character’ in it. He lives with his elderly parents in a dilapidated house just yards away from the railway tracks. After years of planning and learning acting lessons from YouTube tutorials, Pankaj has finally made up his mind to go to Mumbai. But has he? His sparse, inconsistent income and his father’s retirement are already taking a toll on the family.
Pankaj and his friends (who are also aspiring actors) often climb a dead tree branch near the airport to pose for pictures. At other times, they film planes flying out of the runway, sitting on the same tree branch. Ironically, they would have probably never even sat in a car. The film is a mood piece that tenderly dovetails the stillness of the protagonist’s life. Achal, who is also a photographer, mindfully captures the one dream of a small-town man, and his inability to realise it. While he enjoys listening to NSD graduate Nikhil’s anecdotes from the set with actor Pankaj Tripathi, he’s got absolutely nothing to add to a conversation about Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, as his acquaintance (whom he bought a packet of cigarettes) remarks, “Tum pedh par chadh ke plane dekho abhi”. The tussle in his mind between his aspirations and his lack of access only intensifies as he walks through thick mist that envelops the sleepy town after sunset.
Although not a tragedy, you cannot ignore Dhuin’s gruff poetry. It’s life as it is. Restraint, minimalism and the use of Maithili underpin Achal’s directorial masterpiece. The filmmaker seems to have a liking for the fade-in, fade-out effect, which also punctuated Gamak Ghar. Tajdar Junaid keeps the background score understated, but not bereft of poignance. As Pankaj, Abhinav (who has also co-written the script) fills your heart with empathy and compassion. The movie is a reminder that India is brimming with spectacular narratives, and independent filmmakers are willing to tell these stories in a more nuanced and imaginative style, through low-budget projects.
VERDICT: A must-watch for those who enjoy independent cinema, Dhuin is as realistic as it can get. It would probably not be wrong to say that Achal creates an immersive aura around his characters and the setting, making it hard for the audience to escape without giving it a thought. You cannot help but savour the languidness and precision of every frame in equal measure.