Friday, March 5, 2010

Review - Road, Movie

This Road has its pitfalls

Starring: Abhay Doel, Satish Kaushik, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Yashpal Sharma, Mohammed Faizal
Director: Dev Benegal
Stars: **1/2

The multiplex film era has ushered in, among other things, the movement of concept films. These are directors who are part of Bollywood's new wave and perennially in search of fresh ideas. In recent times. we've had filmmakers like Dipakar Banerjee, Anurag Kashyap and Imtiaz Ali, among others, who have come up with interesting concepts and have managed to carry it through. This is of course not always the case. As an idea, many films sound excellent on paper, but on screen, they often leave the job half done. One gets a similar sense with Road, Movie.

Uninterested in his father's hair oil business, Vishnu (Abhay Doel) grabs the opportunity to drive an antique Chevy truck through the deserts --- to be stationed at a museum. The truck - now in shambles- used to be a touring cinema once. Vishnu is mostly indifferent to the truck's luminous past and looks at the journey as an escape from his current travails. He meets two other peole en route - a runaway 12- year old boy (Mohammed Faizal) and a friendly old mechanic (Satish Kaushik). Vishnu reluctantly gives them a lift in return for repairing his truck when it breaks down. The journey is full of obstacles. A hostile cop threatens to lock them up unless they treat him to films through the night. Soon, the trio run out of water and go in search of a well. They are joined in this by a gypsy woman ( Tannishtha Chatterjee) . Their troubles are somewhat assuaged in the midst of some night-life revelry at a mela, where Vishnu and others exhibit their iconic films to a riveted audience. But an encounter with a water-lord (Yashpal Sharma), who steals water and sells it to the desert dwellers at a higher price, once again derails their journey.

As an idea, Road Movie instantly perks your interest. Director Dev Benegal combines his love for the movies and travel, as an escape into an unknown, magical world. He tries to portray the healing power of cinema in what is a warm, visually stunning, but an underwhelming screenplay. Benegal is fairly successful in bringing out the restorative nature of films. There are at least two-three scenes that do so brilliantly. In one instance the rag-tag team lands up for a mela, only to find it empty. Not giving up, they set up their screens, only to see more people trickling in and in no time, the place is transformed into a vibrant, joyous wonderland. This element of magic realism beautifully brings out the collective love we share for entertainment, as a way to escape from the drudgery of our lives.

But there are enough problems too. Abhay Deol is portrayed as a self-centered yuppie who learns some lessons in humaneness by the end of the trip. This transformation is not convincing, because you never really get a sense of his character at all. Abhay is made to look more like an NRI - completely at odds with his surroundings. Again, his fleeting romance with the gypsy woman appears forced, so when they exchange a passionate kiss in the end, you feel no palpable emotion.

The real issue though is that Dev Benegal inserts the issue of water scarcity and lets the script run away with it. It gives the film a serious tone, not wholly in consonance with the rest of the subject.
If the film is still worth a watch, it's because of its tremendous technical achievements. The gorgeous cinematography (Michel Amathieu) and vibrant music score (Michael Brook) make it visually sumptuous experience. Curiously all of Abhay Doel's recent movies – Dev D, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye and now Road, Movie – boast of eye-catching, electric colours. One wonders if it has something to do with Doel's background in graphic designing.

Among the performances, Satish Kaushik stands out. After a long time, the veteran actor has been given such a meaty part and he sinks his teeth into it with relish.
Road, Movie - much like the truck - is wobbly and uncertain. But it has some delights - like the traveling cinema it houses.

- Sandhya Iyer


Anonymous Maya Magdalena said...

Fantastic! ♥ :)

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