Male Push Cart (2005)
Directed by: Ramin Bahrani | 87 minutes | drama | Actors: Ahmad Razvi, Leticia Dolera, Charles Daniel Sandoval, Ali Reza, Farooq ‘Duke’ Muhammad, Upendran K. Panicker, Arun Lal, Razia Mujahid, Hassan Razvi, Mustafa Razvi, Altaf Houssein, Bill Lewis, Abdelrahma Abdelaziz, Ronak Ricky Patel , Shaana Diya, Bhavna Toor, Adrian Quezada, Atif Muhammad Mirza, RN Rao, Issam Abdelkader
When you think of New York City in movies, you think of Woody Allen’s ironic observations or the glamor and hectic life of people trying to make it to the top. ‘Man Push Cart’ is miles away from this and is even more or less regarded as the ultimate counterpart of such films. Here it’s not about the rat race for the coolest job or issues like: do I have the right clothes or the search for Mr. right.
For Ahmad (Ahmad Razvi), it’s all about survival at the bottom rungs of the ladder, more or less in the subconscious of the city. He sells coffee and bagels in a cart on the street. In regular movies, you would only encounter a person like Ahmad as an extra when the young, attractive protagonists pass him and his cart in the street or discuss love with their budding romance or best friend over a quick coffee in the street.
Here, however, such a street vendor has devoted an entire film to himself. Every night Ahmad gets up to pull his cart through the streets of Manhattan and sell his wares. His world is limited: he has no friends and no social life. He was once a pop star in his native Pakistan. After the death of his wife, he hardly sees his son, who is being raised by his in-laws. His in-laws don’t like him and that’s how Ahmad spends his days. It is a sad existence, which stands out in the margins of the city without a significant beginning or end. Led a life without hope or prospects. And if there are any, whether it’s the possibility of loving Spanish saleswoman Noemi (Letitia Dolera) or caring for a very young, abandoned kitten, everything is doomed to fail. A conventional film with an evolving plot and characters that are essentially changed by the end of the film, ‘Man Push Cart’ is not. Nor is it an optimistic film with a happy ending. What it is, however, is an impressive sketch of a desolate life.
According to director Bahrani, the film is partly based on the book ‘Le Mythe de Sisyphe’ by the French writer Albert Camus. The name comes from Greek mythology, where Sisyphus, a king, has to roll a boulder up a hill in the underworld as punishment. Every time he comes up, the boulder rolls back down and he has to start over. The symbolism is clearly present. Despite his lack of experience, Razvi plays the jaded Ahmad to perfection. In the limited time she is on display, Dolera also shows what she can do. For the rest, the acting is not special, but given that it was also shot in the street and some people Ahmad encounters did not even know that they were playing in a film (permission was requested afterwards) that is not surprising. The camera work is not out to film the ugly side of New York, but just raw and realistic how it is. The street scenes could have been filmed by a tourist, were it not for the fact that the tourist attractions remain out of the picture. A small, special film with an original premise, which is certainly thought-provoking. ‘Man Push Cart’ premiered at the 2005 Sundance festival to critical acclaim. In the “independent” circuit, the film won a number of international awards.