Review: ‘Miss Manju — Truck Driver’

Pic brings a startling simplicity to the ever-evolving docu form. With nary a word or Chyron of explanation, the camera quietly tags alongside the title character. Unforced, oddly beautiful film has already wowed gay fest crowds, but 52-minute length, DV format and absence of explicit sexual content might limit "Miss Manju" to indie cable.

“Miss Manju — Truck Driver” brings a startling simplicity to the ever-evolving docu form. With nary a word or Chyron of explanation, the camera quietly tags alongside the title character, who only occasionally comments as she steers her six-wheeler through treacherous stretches of highway or gets a shave, haircut and facial from a local barber. A sense of acceptance that encompasses sexual ambiguity and roadside accidents with equal equanimity emerges from the pic’s minimalist aesthetic. Unforced, oddly beautiful film has already wowed gay fest crowds, but 52-minute length, DV format and absence of explicit sexual content might limit “Miss Manju” to indie cable.

Manju looks and dresses like a man, though photos of earlier incarnations display varying degrees of femininity. Anecdotes about prejudice are dismissed without bitterness; obviously, she has found her niche. Driving a truck indulges her love of danger (rock-throwing bandits haunt the roads at night) and her passion for making money. But Manju comes into her own in her mastery at the wheel as she tools down the highway and in her casual camaraderie as she shoots the breeze with fellow truckers around a cookfire.

Miss Manju -- Truck Driver

India

Production

An Indie Films/Jan Vrijman Fund production. Produced by Sehjo Singh. Directed by Sherna Dastur.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Mohanan; editor, Lalitha Krishna. Reviewed on videocassette at Museum of Modern Art Documentary Fortnight, New York, Dec. 21, 2003. Hindi, Gujarati dialogue. Running time: 52 MIN.

With

Manjula Prajapati.
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