March 5, 2010 3:48:30 pm
Cast: Abhay Deol,Satish Kaushik,Tanishtha Chatterjee
Director: Dev Benegal
The two parts of the title,separated by a comma,conjure up two of the most beguiling subjects a film can have. Being on the road,journeying from point A to point B,with or without a destination,can be magical. And theres nothing more so than the movies. Dev Benegals latest,which marries the two,lacks the enchantment this sort of film must necessarily possess to take hold of,and enthrall.
Vishnu ( Deol) is on the run from a future which holds out more of the same. The father sells oil,so must his jeans-tee-shirt-I pod-sporting progeny,but thats not what the son wants. So he offers to drive an ancient,falling-to-bits truck across the desert. On the way,he meets strange and wondrous characters,just as it should be in a film in which the leading man drives off into the unknown,looking for what he knows not : a traveling mechanic ( Kaushik),a wandering gypsy ( Chatterjee),a young lad with a smart mouth and a wide smile.
Benegals drawing of small-town India in ‘English,August,also peopled by the bizarre and the weird,felt completely true,because the original vision came from author Upamanyu Chatterjee who had lived that life. In ‘Road,Movie,the road-map is faux,aimed at those who are enamoured,still,of the idea of exotic India.
The film comes alive at one point in the second half,when oil meets water : a bandit who controls all water supply in the desert is bested by Vishnu the reluctant oil merchant: the latter whips out a bottle,part of the stash his father has kept in the truck,and laves the formers hot head. ‘Tel lagaao,aur mard bano : the line,as close to lifes little ironies as it can get,makes you laugh,pause,and laugh again.
The rest of the film strives for this tone without success. Deol,who includes a defecation scene in his brave repertory ( remember him spread-eagled with his mouth muffled,awaiting a fate worse than death,at the hands of a lusty lungi-clad goon in ‘Ek Chalis Ki Last Local’ ? ) with this film,has made his first wrong call. You keep waiting for him to break out,but except for that ‘tel bechna scene where he sparks,hes there without really being there,even when he gets into a long lip-lock with the attractive ‘banjaran. Chatterjee is getting typecast too soon : could someone please give her a part where her being ‘dusky and ‘ethnic isnt an essential part of the job description? Kaushik as the dusty,handy mechanic is the only one who rises,occasionally,above the script.
Except for a few interesting bits,’Road,Movie is a pointless meander.
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