Cast: Prakash Jha , Anita Chowdhary, Dimpy Mishra, Aarohi Sharma, Idhika Roy, CP Sharma and Aayan Madar
Director: M Gani
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Matto Pal’s likes are all around us. Most of us prefer to remain indifferent to their presence and plight. Hindi cinema does the same. On the big screen, we rarely get to see people who work to build our homes, build our roads, and produce the things we buy and what we eat. In a modest, minimalist way, Matto’s Sackil trains the spotlight on the miserable reality of India’s unorganized labor force.
Directed by debutant M Ghani and directed by filmmaker Prakash Jha, Matto Ki Saikil is a deeply felt, strikingly authentic and deeply moving story of a poor daily wage earner who lives in an extraordinary village in the filmmaker’s hometown of Mathura. Is. At the center of the plot is a bicycle that has seen better days.
Despite the film’s serious premise, it doesn’t succumb to sad melodrama. Driven by Jha’s presence, it knows where he is going. The film’s protagonist, despite the many setbacks and exploits he faces, soldiers because he is committed to providing his family rain or shine.
Matto’s Cycle follows a man in crisis as he struggles to survive on a subsistence level. The silent drama rests on the daily grind that he must endure. Every morning, Matteo rides a bicycle to a construction site in the city where he works. He returns to the village before sunset with fellow masons, who earn a few hundred rupees for a day’s labour, singing folk songs with all his heart.
Matteo has no reason to sing. Real happiness turns away from him. Yet he moves on regardless. Like him, his wife Devki (Anita Choudhary) and daughters Neeraj (Aarohi Sharma) and Limca (Idhika Roy) live in the hope that their fortunes will one day change for the better.
Matteo’s bicycles have served him for two decades. It’s breaking now. As a result, the movement of matos is not smooth. He has no money to buy a new cycle. His pleas to grant loans to the building contractor and other acquaintances did not help. Life goes on…
When Matteo plans his eldest daughter’s wedding and talks with the future groom’s father, discussions are interrupted as a new car is part of a dowry demand.
His old bicycle, as the title suggests, is an important character in the film, reflecting the plight of Mateo. Despite decades of hard work, nothing has changed for them. He keeps sliding to the bottom of the social heap.
Mast cycle mechanic Kallu (Dimpy Mishra) tries his best to keep Matto’s spirits up. Provided for a moment, if misleading, positivity by village head Sikandar Fauji (Chandraprakash Sharma), a man voted to power on the basis of a promise to change the constituency.
He offers to install a tap near Matto’s house so that his daughters do not have to go to Uncha Mohalla (upper caste area) to fetch water.
The caste dynamics in Matto’s cycle, in a way, do not come through very clearly. Mateo’s social identity is not specifically highlighted, but it is implied that it is not the class division alone that works against him. His financial status and social standing are intertwined.
Matteo’s Sackil intelligently slips political references into the narrative in other ways. Development projects are talked about, especially by village level politicians to influence voters.
A notice board on agricultural land announces an upcoming government-funded road project. Is anything in the way of progress likely to change the fate of the marginalized? For Matteo and people like him, development is just a fantasy.
Without giving any plot details, one can state that the film ends on Independence Day. This doesn’t verbalize the question, but questions the notion of freedom in light of what has happened before, in keeping with the opening sequence: Matteo leaning on his bicycle. it’s broken. As he struggles to put the cycle chain back into the groove, a white SUV backs away and leaves behind a cloud of dust.
In a later scene, Matteo and his friends are at a police station to report the theft. The inspector treats them with blatant contempt. When one of the men repeats the complaint that they want to file, the unfazed man in uniform shoots back: “Behra nahi hoon sunaye diye (I am not deaf, I can hear). Contempt contained in the policeman’s statement. It’s hard to miss the irony, which clearly echoes the attitude of the whole system.
The entire system is geared to suppress those who are already voiceless and lack the means to redress their grievances. In short, Matto’s cycle drives the house without resorting to harsh methods. The film is not about rave and boast. It presents its case with a gentle, calm urgency and efficacy.
An out-of-work lawyer is reading a newspaper at a bicycle repair shop. Reading a story, he announces to Matto and Kallu that a person earning Rs 35 a day will no longer be considered below the poverty line. On another occasion, he reads a headline about a prominent industrialist deciding to enter the field of education.
There is only one school in the village where teachers are given to play truant. It has no medical facility other than a quackery doctor selling home remedies. There are also no toilets in the place, which exposes the villagers to raids by the anti-open defecation squad which swings the hammock every now and then.
The village is a real, tangible place in Matto’s Cycle, not the kind of constructed space in which Hindi films about rural India are usually set. The people who live here – Ghani casts actors who mingle with the setting easily and that doesn’t exclude Prakash Jha – and the dialect they speak is rooted and authentic. The village is green because of the agricultural land around it, but there is dirt and mud in the middle of it.
Prakash Jha, in his third big screen appearance as an actor – he was previously seen in 2019’s Saand Ki Aankh and his own Jai Gangaajal (2016) – disappears, body and soul, almost imperceptibly as Matto’s character. In and provides a solid illustration.
Matteo’s cycle goes a fair distance in laying bare the pauper’s wages of the powerless in a world that is pitted against those who are summarily sacrificed at the altar of unsustainable, one-sided development.