Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

March 5, 2010

Slow coach

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 9:07 pm

March 05, 2010

Cast: Abhay Deol, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Satish Kaushik

Director: Dev Benegal

Much like the ramshackle truck that the film’s protagonists make their journey in, Road, Movie directed by Dev Benegal, is a slow and rickety ride that tires you out by the time it reaches its destination. A visually stunning but emotionally hollow adventure, packed with tired stereotypes, the film is an unsatisfying watch even at running time of 90-odd minutes.

Abhay Deol stars as Vishnu, the reluctant heir of his family’s hair-oil business who agrees to drive his uncle’s antique Chevy truck across the desert where it has been sold to a museum. Once a traveling cinema fitted with a projector and several film cans, the truck itself is a monstrosity that is a challenge to keep running. Along the way, Vishnu picks up three fellow travelers – a runaway urchin boy (played by Mohammed Faizal), a garrulous old mechanic (played by Satish Kaushik), and a sultry gypsy girl (played by Tannishtha Chatterjee).

During the course of their journey this oddball group encounters corrupt cops and local dons, and when their lips are parched for water, or they need to keep dreaded goons away, they unpack the projector and get the cinema running to screen classic movies for the rural folk who embrace the entertainment.

Directed with a light hand, Road, Movie doesn’t succeed in getting you to care for its characters or to sympathize with their situation because, quite frankly, there’s never a sense of real danger. When our protagonists are captured by a feared water-lord for trespassing on his property, the situation is resolved by resorting to that convenient script tool — a sly parody!

But to judge the film purely for what you see on screen, would be unfair in this case. The director clearly intends for his film to work as a lyrical tribute to the magic of movies — his very own Cinema Paradiso if you like. Unfortunately, apart from a few striking visuals and a handful of delightful moments — like the one in which Satish Kaushik’s character decides to snip a boring scene out of a film, and splice it with a popular song from another film – Road, Movie lacks the character depth or the sheer originality of narrative that was required to turn it into an enjoyable celebration of the movies.

Michel Amathieu’s dazzling cinematography is easily the film’s strongest asset, even when he’s capturing nothing but vast expanses of salt or sand. Satish Kaushik as the upbeat repairman steals the film from his co-actors with a warm, endearing performance, and some of the film’s smartest lines.

Unpredictable and occasionally charming, Road, Movie has its moments. But in the end it feels too long, a tad boring, and pretentious even. I’m going with two out of five for director Dev Benegal’s Road, Movie. If you do decide to watch it, go armed with patience. Lots of it.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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