Where To, Miss?


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Where To, Miss?
"Bastian's film is an intriguing portrait of a society in flux."

India now has the seventh largest economy in the world, with no city within it exceeding the output of Delhi. What used to be considered a Third World country is now advancing in leaps and bounds - but there's still one major factor holding it back. Sexism. In Delhi, only 8% of women work.

Work is more common among spinsters, widows and the young. Devki is in her early twenties and has already experienced a failed marriage. Her father understands her desire to work. But why can't she take on a government job or something else suitable for a woman? Why does she insist that she wants to be a taxi driver?

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That her father would be fearful is understandable. There were 1,813 recorded rapes in Delhi in 2014 alone, and the real figure is thought to be much higher. Women who go outside at night are treated by many people as if they must want or deserve to be violated. But the gradually increasing number of female taxi drivers is making it safer for women to get around, increasing their ability to take on other kinds of work; and increasing the numbers of women around at night changes expectations, making each individual incrementally safer. Devki doesn't see herself as a revolutionary but her determined pursuit of the career she loves has the potential to transform Indian society. And it's transforming her.

Manuela Bastian's keenly observational documentary follows Devki over a period of years, through the ups and downs of her training to another marriage, motherhood, and what comes afterwards. Although events and people around her seem to be conspiring to push her into a traditional role, and the lack of autonomy occasioned by attitudes to her gender is sometimes shocking, this stubborn young woman grows more and more certain of her right to control her own life - a right she will enforce at any cost. Characterised by a sullen glare that can give way to cheerful chatter and laughter as soon as she's in the company of people who show her respect, she's a forceful individual who doesn't worry overmuch about being liked, but Bastian teases out her vulnerabilities in endearing ways. Her nervousness before a driving test is something many viewers will relate to, and though she mentions it only briefly, it's painful to see how much she misses family members who have rejected her.

Though it sometimes meanders a little too much and loses focus, Bastian's film is an intriguing portrait of a society in flux. Devki's ambitions might seem quite ordinary in scope had she been born in another place or another time. As it is, her employers provide mandatory self defence training. It's life's subtler blows, however, that Devki really struggles to defend herself against. She is a taxi driver certain of her destination but struggling to find the right route.

Reviewed on: 04 Feb 2017
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Where To, Miss? packshot
A young Indian woman battle to escape her traditional role and fulfil her dream of becoming a taxi driver.

Director: Manuela Bastian

Year: 2016

Runtime: 83 minutes

Country: Germany, India


Glasgow 2017

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