[27 April 2010]
Road, Movie differs from the personal experience of director Dev Benegal, which served as the film’s kernel of inspiration. Unfortunately, it will neither linger long in your memory nor be as formative. Benegal’s film is born from his journey into the outback in hopes of seeing a film, yet punctuated by a daunting absence of anyone else. Before he gave up and headed home, Benegal noticed a figure on the horizon and before long thousands of people had gathered, all sharing the same desire. A magical evening in the embrace of a celluloid mirage ensued and, as he described, the “human oasis” vanished with no trace before the dawn.
Benegal’s film opens with a young man, Vishnu (Abhay Deol), searching for something grander than working in the family business—making and selling Atma Hair Oil. Before the brief title sequence, we find Vishnu on the road, entrusted with the task of driving and delivering a film projection truck. Before departing, his jovial father shoulders him with boxes of product, with its ridiculous tag line, and encouragement to sell it far and wide.
A road trip would not be any fun without friends, and soon Vishnu picks up the first of three compatriots. After stopping the truck and drawing Vishnu in for chai and biscuits, the young boy (Mohammad Faizal) cracks as if he expected Starbucks quality. While many in the audience laughed, this reference to Western contemporary culture seemed quite out of place. The boy then tags along for a ride until their 1942 truck ends up breaking down (without surprise). At this point they are joined by another fellow, the wise repairman Om (Satish Kaushik).
Finally, rounding out the group, is a nomadic Woman (Tannishthah Chatterjee) whom they come upon in the parched desert as she wanders alone seeking water. The companions eventually get mixed up with a corrupt policeman, face the looming threat of the evil Waterlord who controls the area, and witness firsthand the powerful attraction of cinema in rural India. Unfortunately, witnessing Vishnu’s road trip is unsatisfactory as it never feels like the trials of the journey redefine him.
Instead of plying song and dance like a traditional Bollywood film, Road, Movie beguiles a real life cinema audience with hair tonic. Yet when the movie is finally over, we’re actually left with snake oil.
Director, other filmmakers and the three adult actors were in the audience at the Village East Cinema, Sunday April 25th 2010 at 6 pm, to partake in a Q&A after the screening. This writer did not stick around due to time constraints.
Director Dev Benegal