24/07/2024

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Movie Review – “Road, Movie” Is a Journey of a Young Man From Indifference to Enlightenment

3 min read
Movie Review – “Road, Movie” Is a Journey of a Young Man From Indifference to Enlightenment

“Road, Movie” is a journey of a young man traveling from indifference to compassion, from confusion to purpose, and argues that there is more to life than money and materialism.

The film begins with Vishnu (Abhay Deol) being encouraged by his father to join his hair oil business as a salesman. The coddled young man wants no part of this boring job and instead volunteers to drive a 1942 Chevy truck to a distant city. Along the way, he reluctantly picks up a young vagrant (Mohammed Faizal) running away in hopes of finding work in a big city. Before long, the old truck breaks down and the boy disappears, then returns hours later with a wise old man (Satish Kaushik) who barters to fix the truck in return for giving him a ride to an elusive desert fair.

Vishnu resents his two passengers yet, to deliver the truck, they become a necessity. Later he is pulled over by the desert police for not having the proper papers. It’s more a case of extortion than justice and Vishnu has nothing with which to barter. That is until the cop discovers the truck is a traveling cinema complete with a projector and cans of film. The cop wants to see a film and Vishnu, with the help of his passengers, screens an assortment of unrelated film reels. Suddenly, the projector breaks down and the old man finds a bottle of scented oil to fix it.

The next morning, after Vishnu drives off without his passengers, his truck breaks down again. Now walking, the old man and the young boy pass by and want no part of Vishnu’s trickery. He prevails, the truck is fixed and they continue on together again.

There are two stories in this film. One is the poetic journey of these travelers and the other relates to the inhabitants of this stark but beautiful desert. In this lifeless landscape, women continually search for water as a Mafia leader controls all the wells. One lone searcher is a beautiful widow played by Tannishtha Chatterjee and she becomes another passenger on this journey. The Mafia water lord executed her husband, a casualty of lawlessness, for stealing water. She relates and symbolizes the plight of these forgotten desert people.

Numerous encounters test their resilience and compassion. These travelers bond at first out of necessity, yet later they develop a true caring for each other. “Road, Movie” is a memorable odyssey that reminds us how truly wondrous life can be; and that magic can be found in the most unexpected places. One magical moment is when these rural folks watch cinema for the first time. It is a joyous event filled with laughter and makes the trip and the film truly worthwhile.

While entertaining, a minor weakness of this road film is that it goes in too many directions at the same time. It lacks the cohesiveness of a compelling story line, one that builds and connects emotionally to all the facets presented. The social and political issues, the confusion among the young and the plight of those living in this wilderness requires a more integrated story. There is also the ambiguity between what’s reality and what’s fantasy, and maybe the director purposefully allows the audience to determine which is which. The acting is truly believable and polarizes the adversarial behavior as well as its gradual progression to caring and trusting.

Visually stunning, this film captures the beauty of a vast, barren open landscape. The cinematography is exquisite and the music emotionally stirring. One must also mention the Chevy truck, a battered old vehicle that is a character in itself traveling to its final destination, a museum. It is a treasure in production design as it visually shows its age and its benevolent history. As to the film, some may wonder what is it, a poetic fable, a road adventure, or a social commentary. Maybe it’s all three.

CREDITS: Stars Abhay Deol, Satich Kaushik, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Mohammed Faizal. Directed & Written by: Dev Benegal; Producers: Ross Tatz, Susan Landau; Cinematographer: Michel Amathieu; Editor: Yaniv Dabach; Composer: Michael Brook.. In Hindu and English with English subtitles. Reviewed at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. Not Rated. 95 minutes. Available on DVD.

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