1232 KMS Review: The Best Survival Drama Ever Is Here; Vinod Kapri's Film On Migrant Labourers Is A Story That Needs To Be Heard

Vinod Kapri's documentary on migrant labourers '1232 KMS' is a story that needed to be brought into our lives; read the review here

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1232 KMS Review: The Best Survival Drama Ever Is Here; Vinod Kapri's Film On Migrant Labourers Is A Story That Needs To Be Heard

In March 2020 when a nationwide lockdown  was declared  thousands  of migrant labourers  were stranded   in  the  major cities  without livelihood,  food  or hope. This is  the story of seven such Bihari migrants who decided  to  cycle  their way  home  to the Saharsa district in Bihar more than a  thousand  miles away.

 How did they  do it? Where did they find the  physical and emotional strength with not a penny  in their pocket, relying solely on their  survival  instincts  and  the kindness of strangers, like that truck driver with a  smiling face who loads  all the migrants  and cycles on his truck and takes them  some miles, giving their  feet a brief respite. And never mind if  the cops may accost him.Kindness  knows no  bounds.

And what  about that beaming cop(I will  never forget his face)   who  gets a tyre tube for one  of  the cyclists from a town nearby  and tells us  it is  important for all of us to do what can  do to help.“Anyone  who helps  us  is  Bhagwan,” says  one of  the  migrants, as  Vinod Kapri follows them all the way to their homes.

I have to admit that the thought of Kapri trailing these monstrously desperate  penniless wretchedly anxious  human beings  in his  car made me  uncomfortable. But as  the  journey progressed,  and hope often dimmed , I saw the wisdom of  Kapri’s  task .

This is a story that needed to be brought into our lives.  So far we have just heard  about the  struggle of  thousands  of migrants, how they cycled, walked, begged for rides  to get home on empty stomachs. Here in  front of  our eyes is the most devastating and damning  documentation of human callousness. As  we see these brave  men peddling to their homes,  each one of us  out here has reason to feel terribly guilty.

When and  how did this  great nation of ours  come to this? How did we  become so  impervious  and  indifferent to the plight  of  the poorest  of the poor? This underlining question haunts this historic  90-plus  minute film as we undertake a journey from Delhi to Saharsa with  men(a  few of them look  like  boys) who have  nothing to lose .

“Ghar  jayenge  ya  raste mein marr jayenge,” they say more than once. Their  bodies  fatigued beyond belief by the  incessant peddling sometimes  give up on them. But their determination  is  immovable.I have  never seen  braver heroes in my life than these people whose lives Kapri has chosen to film  as a reminder  of the cruelty that  we as  a collective society inflict  on  the  underprivileged.

“There is  no place  in this country  for  the poor,”  says a  young man peddling  violently to  his intended  freedom. He  is  not angry, just resigned   to his  fate.Yes, they  do feel angry towards  the Gods for doing this to them. There are heartbreaking  breaks  for video calls  home to the grieving mom  or  wife who has decided not to eat a morsel until the man of the house returns.

This brings me to a  major blemish in this exceptional unexampled survival story. Why the background music and poignant songs in the background about the wife waiting for her ‘Bidesia’ to come home or asking her beloved to remove her ghunghat as her hands her plunged in flour dough?…1232 KMS needed no cinematic embellishment and props to amplify the drama.

The inherent emotional content is  so high, the wounds so  raw  and  painful that any  adornment seems  like  a  silly  compromise. This is  a  story  that needs to be  heard.  Full marks  to  Vinod  Kapri  for telling  it. He has great support from his  editor Hemanti Sarkar who has pieced together the  fragments  and shards  of  a  socio-economic  tragedy   from  which  we shall  never  emerge .Not really.



Image source: IMDb
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