Just a thought before I review this film... When you saunter in for the screening of a movie directed by a celebrated film-maker, a movie which has had a good run at film festivals, a movie which tilts towards art house cinema, it is expected that the critic shower the film with lavish praises and speak of it in glowing terms.
If you don't, get ready to be ostracized by pseudos masquerading as messiahs of parallel cinema, get ready to be labelled a nincompoop by netizens, get ready to face the constant bitching and loose talk by the 'Balcony Class' presswalas. Believe me, a few people are in awe of such cinema and feel they need to prove how cerebral they are by praising such films.
Now to the review! Either the film works or it doesn't. It's all about the story and how convincingly the storyteller narrates it. If the story is absorbing, you can't take your eyes off screen. If it isn't, you break into a yawn, you fidget with your cell phone, you start looking at all places, except the screen.
What you're attempting to say, is important. But how many people actually follow what you're saying, is even more important. Road, Movie narrates the journey of a young man and the people he encounters on his way. But the problem is, what is Road, Movie trying to say? You're clueless!
Is it about the water mafia? Is it about a touring cinema? Is it a love story between an educated youth and a gypsy? Is it a road movie? The sole factor that stands out in this film is its breath-taking locations/visuals. They are more striking than the story. And that's the sad truth!
Also, why is it that India is often projected as a land of snake charmers, as a poverty-stricken, hunger-stricken, drought-stricken country with beggars and slums all around? Is that what India is, in their eyes? Is this what we are trying to sell to the West and the world in general? That's really sad!
Final word? Road, Movie caters to a very, very, very, very tiny section of movie-going audience, who have an appetite for 'festival films'.
Vishnu [Abhay Deol], a restless young man, itches to escape his father's faltering hair oil business. An old truck beckons, which Vishnu sees as his ticket to freedom. As he sets off across the harsh terrain of desert India, he discovers he's not merely transporting a battered vehicle, but an old touring cinema.
Along the way, Vishnu reluctantly picks up a young runaway [Mohammed Faizal Usmani], a wandering old entertainer [Satish Kaushik] and a gypsy woman [Tannishtha Chatterjee]. Together they roam in the barren land, searching for water and an elusive fair. The journey turns dire when they are waylaid by corrupt cops and a notorious water lord.
Road, Movie starts off very well, but loses focus midway. Abhay's interaction with the kid and also Satish Kaushik is thoroughly enjoyable. But as the story unfolds, the movie loses its grip and starts going in circles. The plot works till Abhay and Satish screen the movie for the cop, but the portions thereafter aren't engaging, except for a sequence or two in between.
The portions depicting the fair leaves you confused. Was it for real or a dream sequence? Also, the sequence with the water mafia [Yashpal Sharma] is absurd. This sequence - when Abhay trades off water for hair oil - doesn't gel well with the mood of the film. Even the romantic track between Abhay and Tannishtha looks far from convincing. The finale too lacks clarity and the remix version of 'Tel Maalish' is hardly there.
Director Dev Benegal seems to have concentrated more on visuals than narrating a gripping story. Frankly, the story is so fragile that it's difficult to hold your attention in those 90 odd minutes. The screenplay is bland and what makes it worse is the fact that the plot unravels at a lethargic pace. Dialogues are well worded at places.
Abhay Deol is a complete natural and this film proves it yet again. Satish Kaushik is first-rate. Mohammed Faizal Usmani impresses. Tannishtha Chatterjee does well. Yashpal Sharma is wasted. Virendra Saxena is efficient.
On the whole, Road, Movie is more for the festival circuit and some connoisseurs of art house cinema, who may savour it. That's about it!
Directed by - Dev Benegal
Starring - Abhay Deol, Satish Kaushik, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Mohammed Faisal Usmani