On Screen, In Person: Runaway

This last session of On Screen, In Person was the film Runaway directed by Amit Ashraf. This popular event took place in Wilson Auditorium on October 15. It was a great film that gave this reviewer and the audience multiple viewpoints.

Student Tara Cooney said the film was “enjoyable” while student Kevin Kaisian thought the film was “better than expected,” and the ending was a “crazy twist.”

“Enjoyable” might not be the word; “disturbing” was more appropriate, a word that even Professor Demirjian, the host of the presentation, used to describe the ending. Ashraf sought to show that evil can get away and he got his point across. 

Right away the audience is thrown into the film without any exposition about what is going on and who we are supposed to be paying attention to. It’s jarring, but so is the film, and it’s all the better for it.

Ashraf films the movie like a puzzle. Not much exposition is shown, making the audience pay attention and connect the dots to understand the plot, and in doing so, Ashraf paints a fuller picture of evil and shows that sometimes it does get away, but by being more realistic, the film is probably one of the most honest films I’ve seen in some time.

The film centers on two characters, Akbar and Babu. We first meet Babu as he watches a man tied to a tree being beaten by his wife, who is both angry and heartbroken that he left the family for what she believes are selfish reasons. We then realize that Babu was the man who brought the man tied to a tree back and that Babu does this for a living. He is also a school wagon driver and when not on the job, he uses the innocent looking wagon to bring back runaways.

Akbar is a politician and criminal who is running for political office. Akbar is Babu’s next assignment and it’s a personal one as we see Babu tear a flier in half of Akbar not in anger, but in disappointment and shame. What follows is a unique tragedy as we watch Babu attempt to bring Akbar back to his family, and, at the same time, the audience sees just how similar the humble and poor Babu can be to the rich and corrupt Akbar.

Also interspersed throughout the film are scenes of characters that don’t seem to make much sense being there at first, but, eventually, these scenes come together and form a puzzle as the film continues toward its conclusion, keeping the audience guessing what these scenes symbolize and keeping them interested.

As the audience watches Babu’s quest to deliver Akbar to the family he abandoned, we see Akbar’s rise to the top and what he has done and gone through to reach it.

You might wonder what the points of these scenes are in relation to Babu, but as the film heads to its surprising conclusion, these pieces of the puzzle are both shocking and tragic.

While Babu’s job seems to be the centerpiece of the film, the real central plotline is the similarities between the two main characters.

While Akbar is a runaway, Babu is not very far behind. Like Akbar, Babu is a very flawed man; he even sings a song about it while sitting in the field drinking alcohol.

Babu is a borderline alcoholic who spends a lot of time away from his family doing this job. His daughter even calls him by his first name, not Dad, hinting at the toll his job has taken on his family.

Babu’s job can be very dangerous, depending on who he has to recover. Akbar is a very powerful man and has a bodyguard who is constantly looking for him and Babu’s life is in constant danger whenever he catches up to them.

The intensity of this movie demonstrates Ashraf’s passion in delivering the message that evil can get away with anything. He uses hand held cameras during intense scenes of Babu trying escape Akbar’s bodyguard making the audience feel Babu’s desperation.

Babu is accused of having faults by his wife, and he is tired of it. It seems so easy for Babu to stop doing this kind of job, but something is still driving him. He doesn’t want to stop.

What he goes through to deliver Akbar makes you wonder why he is so determined to do it, but it also makes you care for him, root for him, and hope he succeeds.

Ashraf portrays the past as calm and almost peaceful but as the audience watches Akbar’s rise from poor citizen to criminal, the film’s cinematography becomes darker, nosier, and hectic. Babu’s life out in the fresh air looks like heaven compared the bustling and damp city that Akbar inhabits. This film is intense and makes the audience pay attention. Akbar is an intense man but at one point in his life was not. The more we see Akbar’s development the more the film speeds up but still allows the audience to follow the pieces of the puzzle.

Films such as Runaway are movies I wish I made more time for. It asks questions that big budget Hollywood films don’t want to ask. A movie like Runaway shows facts that audiences don’t want to see because they know they are true. Films such as Runaway makes audiences wonder what else they are not seeing that can sometimes be right in front of them. Like Gen Silent, the first On Screen, In Person film of the semester, it makes the audience ask themselves questions and reveals truths that we should know but might not be aware of.

While I want to, I really can’t say it’s great, because the structure of the film, while I liked it, could turn people off and they might not have the reaction I have. Some may not like there being barely any exposition.

I will say it is a very important film though and I highly recommend anyone to see this film. Audiences might not have the same opinion I have, but they will definitely feel something after this movie. On Screen, In Person is two for two. Bring on number three.