Road to Self-Discovery

Road to Self-Discovery

Filmmakers are using the physical journey that their characters undertake as a metaphor for an emotional one.

THE journey that protagonist Bunny undertakes with his school friends Naina,Aditi and Avi in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani,marks the beginning of his romance with travel. In its promos,the foursome can be seen at several picturesque locations across Manali,Rajasthan and Kashmir. “Stories told over travel connect well with youth from the urban landscape,which forms the setting for my film,” says director Ayan Mukerji.

With its lead actors taking off on an impromptu road trip,Dil Chahta Hai was perhaps the first prominent film to tap into the connection that urban Indians today share with travelling. Ever since,several tales in Bollywood have been told on the road — Siddharth Anand’s Anjaana Anjaani,Dev Benegal’s Road,Movie,and Zoya Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara are some examples of this. While each of these films uses the opportunity to showcase picturesque locations,some go beyond the frills.

For instance,the journey in Mukerji’s film isn’t physical alone. It proves to be a turning point in the lives of all the characters involved and gives wings to their individual dreams. The director,therefore,has chosen to juxtapose the characters’ emotional journey with a physical one. Imtiaz Ali’s next,Highway,much like his earlier films,Jab We Met and Rockstar,will explore the lives of its key characters,played by Randeep Hooda and Alia Bhatt,through a metaphorical journey on the road. Similarly,says director-producer Vikas Bahl,his upcoming film Queen has its protagonist,played by Kangna Ranaut,undertake a trip that is a means of self-discovery. “Travel has the ability of changing one’s views on life and this is what makes it a great metaphor for the evolution of a character,” says Bahl.

More often than not,it is the director’s own fascination and passion for travel that the characters imbibe. An ardent traveller with a passion for trekking,Mukerji says he has lent his own passion to the hero of his movie,played by Ranbir Kapoor. Ali,on the other hand,has admitted that his characters are often derived from people he met on his train journeys from his hometown Jamshedpur. A compulsive traveller,Homi Adajania adds that his next,Finding Fanny — a comedy set on the road to Goa — will borrow from his own experiences.


Easy though it may seem,the filmmakers warn that depicting a metaphorical journey through a physical one comes with its own set of challenges. “One of the biggest risks is falling into the trap of literal translation where an incident that impacts a character during the journey also overlaps with an emotional overhaul in him or her,” says Bahl. Mukerji seconds him,adding that in his film,Kapoor’s character remains largely unaware of the impact that his travels have on him. “When Ranbir starts off,he partly wants to discover the world and partly,himself. The key to self-discovery is in the journey but he isn’t aware of it till he embarks on it,” says Mukerji.

While writing plays a role,the filmmakers say that often,the characters take on a life of their own while shooting outdoors. “The changes that Ranbir’s character Jordan in Rockstar undergoes weren’t written by me alone; Ranbir contributed hugely to those. The process of travelling and living with the character helped him make it his own,” says Ali. Bahl says that shooting for Queen in Amsterdam and Paris along with his crew added a new dimension to the film. “I would watch the crew and cast undergo their own personal,and emotion journeys. They would often return with stories from their own experiences that I added to the film.”