The Bono of Lahore
Man Push Cart, from director Ramin Bahrani is a simple tale heavy on gritty realism that portrays the daily life of Pakistani immigrant, Ahmad (Ahmad Razvi). Ahmad’s grueling routine begins in the early hours on the dark streets of New York as he collects his food cart stored in a warehouse. He then drags the cart through traffic until he reaches his regular corner, and here he sells bagels, coffee, cream cheese and soft drinks. At the end of the day, he hauls the cart back, returns to his hovel of a room, sleeps a few hours, and the next day begins the process all over again.
Ahmad’s Sisyphus routine is supposed to have a goal. He makes payments on his cart with the idea in mind that one day he’ll own it free and clear, and no doubt linked with that is the idea that he’ll be an independent businessman and own a piece of the pie. Perhaps Ahmad is thinking that once the cart is paid, an uphill climb to success will replace the monotonous, endless grind that seems to get him nowhere.
Ahmad is a widower with a small son and hostile in-laws who blame him for his wife’s death. We don’t really know what happened to Ahmad’s wife, but over time, we discover that Ahmad was a famous pop star in Pakistan. In New York, his relationships are limited to casual greetings called out to fellow workers or customers, and at times his alienation seems to be something he chooses. During the course of the film, a few opportunities land in Ahmad’s direction. There’s the possibility of a romance with a young Spanish girl, Noemi (Leticia Dolera) and fellow Pakistani, Mohammed (Charles Daniel Sandoval) offers Ahmad some extra work.
Not a great deal happens in the film, but that doesn’t stop Man Push Cart from being a small masterpiece of detail and characterization. The plot flirts with elements of hope and love, but lands squarely on reality and realism; there are no Hollywood tricks here–just craftsmanship and an eloquent attention to detail.