March 5, 2010

Road Movie Reviews (Raja Sen)

Raja Sen - 3/5

A long and winding ode

All roads lead to roam. Dev Benegal's new film, armed with a syntax-challenging title, is one of those wonderfully shot ruminations of a young clueless man trying to find himself.

He -- by which we mean both protagonist and filmmaker -- can't quite find his forte, but takes us along on a fanciful, unpredictable little diversion, a very pleasant hitchhike through bleak deserts we really ought to see more of.

The film is about slackjawed young loner Vishnu , played by Abhay Deol , an apathetic slacker who really doesn't seem to give a damn about anything. All he knows is that anything would be better than his actual stinking legacy -- he's a hair oil heir -- and escapes by way of delivering an old truck across Rajasthan .

On his way he encounters a motormouth chaiwallah determined on finding a better life, a grizzled old mechanic who knows the ways of the world and points them forward, and a comely young widow looking to forget.

In short, a perfectly family-photograph sized entourage heading to a makeshift Oz mela down the yellow brickless road.

It is, as you'd imagine, a charming film. Thanks mostly to Michel Amathieu's starkly stunning cinematography, the frames are what you take away from the film, frames of a blue, graffiti-led truck wheezing to a halt in the middle of Kutch, of a kid in a bright yellow tee-shirt and of a fat mechanic struggling to stand but never to smile.

The film is textured lovingly, the colours are beautiful and its slow, sluggish pace initially enchants as much as it eventually exasperates.

Yes, exasperates. For this film -- this pretty little waterless detour of a film -- falters because of inconsistency and the lack of a cohesive storyline.

It's neat and pretty and quite charming, but after a while shots of a truck framed by arid landscape begin to seem tiresome. There are moments of genuine surprise and cleverness, but these are often cancelled out by overdone moments, like an excessive fair that appears out of nowhere, or the unforgivably theatrical shot of filmstrips blowing in the wind.

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Caulfield said...

Taran Adarsh - 1.5/5

Pardesi said...

I was about to post Taran's review which was a foregone conclusion. This film will not entice the audiences, but I had expected a more glowing review from Raja Sen.

Has anyone seen English August by the same film-maker?

Pardesi said...

All the intellectuals have gathered at BollywoodHungama!!!


I m thinkin i actually spent money on tickt n popcorn...hmmm...
about 8 hours ago via mobile web


But directr Dev Benegal's deliberate attempt at being 'Artistic' n 'I-know-more than-audience' attitude stands out as a sore thumb...
about 8 hours ago via mobile web
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On the positive side Satish K is first rate, Abhay's likable madness is affable, background score is a gem, cinematography is brilliant
about 8 hours ago via mobile web

Laidback storyline tests ur patience and one is left wondering...Yeh ho kya raha hai...
about 8 hours ago via mobile web

I enjoy stimulating intellectual cinema (I loved Dev D) but Road, Movie is a wee bit too abstract for my liking
about 8 hours ago via mobile web

Pardesi said...


Director: Dev Benegal
Cast: Abhay Deol, Satish Kaushik, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Mohammed Faisal Usmani
Quick Take: Deranged

Many would like to believe Road, Movie is a surreal film. Surreal can be bizarre but it is also always inspiring. Sadly, Dev Benegal’s film is weird and so weird that it skips the surreal realm and enters a non-linear zone. So much so that you fail to understand the inclusion of certain plot developments at the first go. You have to mentally revisit the preceding scene and reason out its inclusion.

Of the many questionable scenes, one is a carnival scene that pops into the narrative out of nowhere and vanishes as if it were Cheshire cat. And yet, its inclusion creates a logical dilemma in the mind of the viewer because it comes across as a figment of imagination but it influences the characters’ behaviour in reality. In short it’s all a bit too confusing.

The story is simpler and it deals with young Vishnu, played by Abhay Deol feebly, and his impromptu decision to take a 40-year-old truck to a far off town. On his way he meets a young boy who tags along on the journey. Soon they also have Om, a mechanic, played brilliantly by Satish Kaushik and a wandering Rajasthani woman (Tannishtha Chatterjee) on board. And as it turns out in Cinema Paradiso style, the truck actually has an integrated film projector, one the travelers use to screen movies for simple village folk.

The movie has been shot by acclaimed cinematographer Michel Amathieu and has a background score by Michael Brook. With all the promise in the world, the movie fails to deliver, because Dev Benegal makes it too complex. Yes, we all like a movie to stimulate our grey cells, but to serve up a perplexing narrative is just not done.

Pardesi said...


Interesting piece from Arthur Pais at Rediff!

As the end credits of the delightful, visually stunning and life-affirming Road, Movie was rolling at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last September, a journalist thought he detected a typo. A very old song called Sar Jo Tera Chakraye featured in the film was credited to R D Burman, not his father, S D Burman, who composed the original music in Guru Dutt's Pyaasa.

But the journalist would soon know from the film's writer and director Dev Benegal [ Images ] that there was no typo.

The fans of R D Burman or Pancham, as he was fondly known, should be rejoicing that 53 years after he composed the tune and 16 years after his death, he finally gets the long due credit -- and that too in a film that could be the first sleeper hit of the year.

With an excellent world of mouth, the Benegal road movie could have a long journey. For it is one of those few art films that are very earthy and can touch anyone. The Pancham melody and the accompanying scenes are important to developing the film's narration.

Pancham's fans have long suspected that the feisty tune composed by him was fine-tuned by his father. In fact, it was one of the dozen songs -- according to Pancham's wife Asha Bhosle [ Images ] and friends -- that he composed for the father which received the latter's own touch and embellishments. 'Pancham was too shy to ask for the credit and it did not strike Dada (S D Burman) to give Pancham the credit,' Asha had said in an interview many years ago.

Sadly, no one associated with the classic song is alive now -- not S D Burman, not the lyricist (Sahir Ludhianvi [ Images ]), not the singer (Mohammed Rafi [ Images ]), nor the film's iconic director-producer (Guru Dutt). Even Burman's assistants like the composer Suhrid Kar have passed away.

Dev Benegal was born three years after Pyaasa was released in 1957. He uses the song extremely well to enhance one of the story strands in Road, Movie.

'It is such an iconic song and it is, in fact, like a character in my film,' Benegal said in an interview at the TIFF. 'I grew up listening to the song for many years.' He added that he had heard long ago that it was actually a Pancham composition. He liked the energy in the song that would later become a characteristic of Pancham's music.

So Benegal called the producer's son Arun Dutt, who distinctly remembered his father saying that it was indeed an R D Burman composition. The filmmaker had no problem getting the permission to use the song and footage from the classic movie. The rest is an act of restoration of credit.

Caulfield said...

I saw the film and it went over the head. It is a very complex film and found it very hard to understand. It might take some time before I understand what the film was about or maybe I would never get it. Nevertheless it is a very slow film and needs patience. Don't go to watch it just because you loved Dev.D and don't skip it just because you hated Dev.D. I can't say whether the film was good or bad until I finally understand what was going on. But it surely is not the kind of film you can watch with your friends to have time-pass.
One thing I really loved was the end credits and the way of writing 'The End.'(No sarcasm intended).

Caulfield said...

It had a feeling of Wes Anderson in it very much like The Darjeeling Limited. But seriously what was going on in the film was beyond me. But it had a fantastic background score.

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