AUTOHEAD HAS BALLS!
When you are watching something that disturbs you, something that makes you feel uncomfortable, and you do nothing about it, you’re party to it too. A film crew in Autohead follows an auto rickshaw driver around and then the rickshaw driver does something that the crew knows isn’t a great thing to do. But they continue to shoot it and begin to slowly revel in voyeurism.
Interestingly, the audience watching the film in a theatre does exactly the same. And in that, the audience and the film crew are one. And that’s the most beautiful aspect of Autohead. That it makes you think about that. This rickshaw driver is a personification of all the baser instincts of an Indian male, brought up in a particular way, taught to think about gender in a particular way and then subjected or exposed to the life of a migrant in Mumbai. The frustrations of that life only serve to enhance everything that is awry in his psyche.
And the film is almost a study with no judgement of this concoction of gender upbringing and society and an immigrant’s life in the Mumbai underbelly. That man we hate for those rapes and murders we see happening around. This is that man. And you’re in his story with him as the captain of the ship. And yet you’ll be engaged by it though it disturbs you.
The narrative is simple but effective. The telling complete. The central character clearly has spent hours with the crew for his talking to be so so natural. It’s almost impossible to believe that there is so much verisimilitude in a film like this. You almost wonder which parts are real and which aren’t. The lead actor is an absolute find as an actor.
The choices of shot division and framing are extremely ballsy. To shoot entire scenes using a telephoto lens where every millimetre of movement shows up in a big way for the subject, choosing to allow frames to be out of focus, shaky, natural, not having to focus on the person talking all the time, are just some of Autohead’s gutsy choices. They’ve clearly allowed the content to determine the telling, and no other consideration.
For a fellow filmmaker, Autohead could easily serve as an inspiration to remember the point that drama creates its own engagement and we don’t necessarily need to cut a scene up into many shots or hold on dearly to cliched camera techniques to make a story more palatable for audiences.
Watch Autohead. Allow it to disturb you and make you think. And find your own interpretation with it.