Road, Movie is director Dev Benegal’s love letter to cinema. It’s a whimsical and charming celebration of the movies.
Be warned: the film is slow and in parts, clunky and underwritten. But Benegal tells the tale with such tenderness and affection that you are slowly but irrevocably seduced by his vision.
Abhay Deol plays Vishnu, a restless young man who can’t bear to inherit his family business of selling a reeking hair oil.
His father says: sungh ise, yeh tera future hai but Vishu hightails it out of there at the first opportunity.
He offers to drive a battered truck to another town. The truck, fitted with a projector and films, was once a travelling cinema.
On route Vishu picks up a smart kid from a roadside dhaba – when Vishu grimaces at the tea he has served, the boy says, "toh kya socha tha, Starbucks hai?"
A little later, he is joined by Chacha, played by Satish Kaushik, a bustling man who insists on being dropped at a mela.
And then, there is a sultry gypsy woman, played by Tannishtha Chatterjee. This motley crew encounters corrupt cops and dreaded dacoits.
At one point, they almost die of thirst. But cinema breathes colour into the darkest scenario.
It’s telling that in the film’s title Road and Movie are separated by a comma.
The film is equally about both: The lure of the open road and the transformative power of the movies.
This is a starkly hypnotic landscape. It’s beautiful and yet unspeakably cruel.
So, a corrupt cop can beat a man mercilessly and women must walk miles for a sip of water. But even here, men and women who have little to smile about find delight in song and dance and melodrama.
The actors work well within the understated rhythms of the film – the most memorable are the garrulous Kaushik (Satish Kaushik) and the young Mohammed Faisal Usmani.
But even at 95 minutes, Road, Movie does feel too long.
In a wonderful scene, Chacha simply cuts out scenes from a film they are screening because, he says, they are too boring.
Road Movie could have done with some similar sniping and a more fleshed-out narrative.
Still, I recommend that you make time for the film. It is a stunningly shot fable that will make you smile.(NDTV)